Why You Should Avoid All Products With This Ingredient

The next time you buy any prepared or packaged food at your health food store or supermarket, check the label for Carrageenan. Simply put, carrageenan does to your intestines, what poison ivy does to your skin (source). 

Why you should avoid all products with this ingredient!Numerous studies conducted on lab animals and human cells over the last four decades have suggested that carrageenan can cause gastrointestinal inflammation, malignant tumors and colon cancer. The body considers it an invader and creates an inflammatory response. In fact, after studying the effects of human consumption of carrageenan for more than a decade and publishing 18 peer-reviewed studies, respected physician and professor Joanne Tobacman (University of Illinois at Chicago) was so convinced that it should not be ingested  she went so far as to petition the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prohibit the use of carrageenan in food. Perhaps not surprisingly, the FDA has denied her request.

The EU, although not completely banning carrageenan, has at the very least banned it from infant formula in which it is rampantly found in North America. The EU however, has “no objection to the use of carrageenan in foods for older infants”. (source)

Carrageenan is even a trending term on twitter with posts such as:

@citypuncture: “Carrageenan causes inflammation in the digestive tract”

@foodfacts.com: “The Girl Scouts is a terrific org, but their cookies are another matter: #transfats#artificialflavors#carrageenan”

@commondreams: “FDA Puts Industry Profit Over Public Health – Defends Safety of Controversial Food Additive#carrageenan”

Sounds like folks are getting the message that carrageenan is damaging to our health!

But it comes from seaweed!

True. Carrageenan is derived from seaweed (most often from the Philippines), but it is processed with Alkali (e.g., 5–8% potassium hydroxide). Its cellulose is then removed and it then undergoes further and further processing. The final product is so far removed from its original source that it’s unrecognizable to your body 

What’s its use?

Carrageenan is a multi faceted food texturizer. It substitutes fat in countless ‘fat-free’ products and provides a thick texture in non dairy products. It also serves as a stabilizer in beverages that may seperate and require shaking (ie. protein drinks) and let’s not forget its use as a binder in deli meats. I guess it’s a well rounded food additive (enter sarcastic voice here).

Where is it found?

Carrageenan is found in everything from ice cream (dairy and non dairy), chocolate milk, deli meats, canned soup, frozen prepared foods and baby formula!

You’d probably be horrified to find out that even many of your favorite organic brands add carrageenan to their products. Here are just a few:



Chocolate Milk
  • Horizon
  • Organic Valley
  • etc…
Cottage Cheese
  • 365 Whole Foods (lowfat and fat free)
  • Horizon
  • Trader Joe’s
  • etc…
Sour Cream
  • Horizon (lowfat)
  • Natural By Nature
  • etc…
  • Stonyfield (Oikos – caramel flavor only, Squeezers – all flavors)
  • Trader Joe’s (Squishers™)
  • Yami Organic
  • etc…
Almond Milk
  • Almond Breeze (Blue Diamond)
  • Almond Dream (original, unsweetened, vanilla, and unsweetened vanilla)
  • Natur-a
  • Pacific Foods
  • So Delicious
  • Trader Joe’s
  • etc…
Chocolate Soy Milk
  • 365 Whole Foods
  • Organic Valley
  • etc…

Also on the list are Rice milk, coconut milk, ice cream, lunch meats, dips, juice, frozen Organic Pizza (annie’s).

Carrageenan also knows no boundaries when it comes to conventional products like:

  • Cold Stone Creamery
  • Nestle Nesquik
  • International Delight (coffee creamer)
  • Carnation Breakfast Essentials
  • Slim Fast
  • Kraft (cottage cheeses and Philadelphis fat free cream cheese)
  • Ben and Jerry’s
  • Infant Formula-currently all ready-to-drink (liquid) infant formula, except Gerber Good Start, contains carrageenan. Avoid carrageenan in infant formula by buying organic powdered formula.
  • etc, etc, etc……

For a complete list of products that do and don’t contain carrageenan go here.

Here is a great a carrageenan free almond milk (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry) you can make yourself.

Photo source


  • KR

    I always wondered what exactly carageenan was. We are dairy free so I am always buying almond milk. I suppose this is why it is a little thick. I buy the organic Almond Breeze and just trusted. I definitely have to open my eyes a little wider. Do you know of a brand that doesn’t use this?

    • eatplaylovemore

      Hi KR,
      Thanks for your comment. I don’t actually know of any brands that don’t use carrageenan. I make my own almond milk with sprouted almonds, water and honey. It’s super easy and healthy. I can post my recipe if you’re interested.

      • KR

        Yes! Please do Libby! Will I need a specific type of blender?

        • eatplaylovemore

          I will post my recipe very soon. Thanks for your interest. As far as a blender goes, the stronger it is, the better job it’ll do. You will also need a ‘nut bag’ or a tightly woven dish cloth.

          • Roxanne

            Silk Almond is GMO-free and carageenan free!

          • eatplaylovemore

            Thank you for the info Roxanne. Although you are definitely correct that Silk brand Almond milk does not contain carrageenan, it does contain another thickener called Locust Bean Gum. Like carrageenan its source is natural (carob bean) but its skin is also removed via acid then processed beyond recognition. Basically these nut milks are thick (perhaps because consumers are used to the thickness of dairy?) when compared to home made nut milk which has the consistency of water.

  • Serena


  • http://gigieatscelebrities.com/ GiGi Eats Celebrities

    I’ve definitely seen this ingredient in deli meats!

    • eatplaylovemore

      I know! Even in the organic stuff I used buy! sneaky buggers.

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  • Alan Vito

    Carrageenan … Another questionable additive approved by the FDA. Sad how us Americans don’t get it but the Europeans are lite years ahead of us.

  • Amber H

    Thank you for this article. I read a few years ago that carrageenan sparked flares in folks with IBD. Seeing that I suffer from Crohn’s, I stay far away from it! It’s such a common thickener in dairy free products, so making things at home is necessary. For example, homemade nuts milks, coconut ice cream, chocolate, yogurt, etc. Thank you so much for bringing this product and issue to light!! And thank you for sharing with us on Allergy-Free Wednesdays!! :-)

    Be Well,

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  • http://www.noskinnies.com/ No Skinnies

    Wow! The more we can prepare our own foods at home the better! I’ve recently cut my family off of processed foods. I did this for several reasons but one of them is b/c my 6 year old complains of tummy aches every night. I have taken her off gluten and anything processed. I’ll now be watching for this ingredient too! Thank you! I found you on Homemade Monday’s. I hope you’ll visit me too over at http://www.NoSkinnies.com. My link is for Choc Chip Cookie Dough Brownies – Gluten Free & Vegan. Here’s the link: http://noskinnies.com/blog/2013/5/13/chocolate-chip-cookie-dough-brownies-vegan-gluten-free

  • FullFatPlease

    I generally prepare my own foods but am interested to know what other names carrageenan may be known as. Is there an additive number associated with this by-product? Does it have pseudonyms?

    • eatplaylovemore

      Ooh! Great question FullFatPlease! I LOVE when I get to research and learn. From what I’ve read, carrageenan does in fact have some pseudonyms (although I’ve never seen them personally). They are: Irish Moss Algae, Irish Moss Extract and Red Marine Algae. Please let us know if you personally see any of these alternate names noted on products. Thanks for stopping by!

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  • Lorre

    What next? Every day anything thing to avoid.

    • doodsdayto

      yah, you are right, after the Anti-GMO posts, it seems we have nothing more to eat..poor us third world peeps! (btw, carrageenan comes mostly from us here in the Phils! ugggh!)

  • khalil_mlk

    Should we trust a stranger?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=623467504 Karen Berman

    omg, that’s almost everything I eat…

    • eatplaylovemore

      It is frightening when you actually take a closer look at the ingredients. I know additives like this have turned me into a label reading monster!

  • Mary

    I use this brand of Almond Milk, But not often.

  • Trillian Ford

    This stuff is bad but not nearly as bad as the additive MHDO. Monohydrodioxide is in absolutely everything! Thousands of people DIE from overexposure to it, but NOTHING is being done about it. It’s added to everything from soda to chicken, and yet it’s one of the strongest SOLVENTS on the planet. Please help me get the word out on this killer. And get this: The FDA dismisses any claim that it is dangerous. Typical.

    • eatplaylovemore

      Thanks for commenting Trillian. I am not familiar with MHDO. What is its main purpose in food?

      • MOCasteel

        they are pranking you, mono (one) hydro (hydrogen) di (two) oxide (oxygen) in other words it is H2O or Water!!!

        • eatplaylovemore

          Lol?! Thanks for clearing that one up MOCasteel.

        • mommy6

          stupid pranker—should be Dihydro monoxide (there are 2 Hydrogens and 1 oxygen)

  • Ronni

    I received this email from So Delicious. I don’t for a minute believe that this stuff is safe for human consumption.

    There seems to be a great deal of confusion about carrageenan, a natural polysaccharide (carbohydrate) extracted from red seaweed. The confusion arises because there are two types of carrageenan: undegraded (food-grade) and degraded (hydrolyzed with acid). Undegraded
    carrageenan has been used on a huge scale in food production worldwide since the 1930s, and its safety has been assured by the FDA Gras status. The Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) gave carrageenan the highest ADI (Accepted Daily Intake) status.

    We take our ingredients very seriously, and we strive to make our products as
    natural as possible so they can be safely incorporated as part of a healthy
    diet. We believe that food-grade carrageenan is neither carcinogenic nor toxic,
    and is safe for human consumption.

    If you have any other questions or comments please call or email me. Thanks and have a great

    Thank you,
    Linda Davis
    Consumer Relations Assistant
    So Delicious Dairy Free
    1-866-388-7853 Ext. 3320
    541-338-9401 FAX

    • eatplaylovemore

      First off Ronni, good on you for being super proactive!

      In my research I did learn about the 2 types of carrageenan, but the fact remains that the processing and extraction of the (food grade) carrageenan is where the problem arises. If enough people take a proactive stance either through direct contact with companies that use this additive and/or refusal to buy said products, it will force them to take a look at their processing practices. After all, the main purpose of carrageenan in a product such as almond milk is to thicken (not terribly important in my opinion). My solution is to make my own. It’s cheap and easy and quality controlled. I don’t have a lot of faith in the FDA.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! :)


      • Stace

        I agree! No faith in the FDA…who do they work for? That’s right, the Government and who keeps the pharmacies and hospitals in business by incorporating these types of ingredients in the foods they put on the shelf? The FDA, by allowing them for consumption so people get ill.

    • Tina

      Psh unbelievable, GMOs are currently “safe” but we know about those. How many times have they had products on the market that they then deemed unsafe?!

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  • Natural Living Mamma

    I found carrageenan in the toothpaste we were using and I was very disappointed. Now it is on the list of stuff we make on our own! Thanks for sharing on Natural Living Monday. I hope to see you again this week.

    • eatplaylovemore

      Wow! Why not toothpaste too? Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

  • Kathryn Swift

    We found it in our toothpaste as well….very disappointing because I love that toothpaste! We’ve also discovered it in all the canned cat food we’ve been feeding our cats :( Grain free all natural product, until we found the carrageenan.

    • eatplaylovemore

      If you don’t mind sharing Kathryn, what brand of toothpaste do you use? I think many of us who use the natural, un-fluoridated brands are blissfully unaware that carrageenan is certainly in the ingredient list. I’ve also heard that carrageenan is in certain pet food. If you find one without, please share if you are so inclined. We also need to protect our four legged family members.
      Hope you’ll stop by again,

      • http://randerings.blogspot.com Dawn

        I was going to buy “Tom’s ” toothpaste awhile back…and sure enough it was in there. :(

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  • Tina

    Thank you for this! I’ve been researching a lot about what goes into my body lately and it’s unbelievable how we have so many products that are so harmful. Then people wonder why they’re always sick! Everything is unnatural and so foreign our bodies can’t handle it. As soon as I do more research, I’ll be posting about this on my blog. Again thank you for bringing this to people’s attention!

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  • Glenda Horner

    that is really a thought to what is going on in my health today time to wake up

    • eatplaylovemore

      Welcome Glenda. Many of us here have also had that ‘wake up’. Please join us for the ride and we can do this together. :)

      • Glenda Horner

        thank you i would like to join this for i dont want to be sick like this any more

  • N Plaza

    It’s unfortunate that so many people are quick to believe the results of ONE researcher. From my time in university, our professors drilled it to our brains that we must always find multiple sources to obtain the most accurate image. To base an entire article from one researcher is being a bit too quick on the draw. If you do further research, you’ll find that no other researcher is able to replicate Tobacman’s findings.

    • Katlover

      Do you work for the food industry? I’m curious because though the original story only quotes one research study, there have been numerous studies going back to the 1950s that show a link between “undegraded” carrageenan and bowel inflammation. You are quite simply, wrong.

      • Jason

        So the problem is unprocessed (undegraded) carrageenan whilest this article says that highly degraded carrageenan is the problem. Sounds straight.

    • Anabela Cristhy

      Read Dr. Blaylock Wellness Report – March 2014. Read Medical Hypothesis journal . I actually got this information about the effects of carrageenan somewhere else so there is enough information and studies which will not be published in NY Times of course.

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  • eatplaylovemore

    Yes, thank you Gtuck and what an extensive list it is! I actually do have a link to that list at the bottom of my post. -Libby

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  • Connie KittyBlog

    it is also used in a lot of canned pet foods

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  • Ingredients Solutions

    Regarding the safety of carrageenan, there has been an
    amazing amount of misinformation being blogged about carrageenan being unsafe
    as a food ingredient. In spite of this misinformation, carrageenan continues as
    the safe food ingredient it has always been. If it were not, the principal
    regulatory agencies of the world (US FDA, FAO/WHO JECFA, EU EFSA, and Japan
    Ministry of Health) would not approve its use, and all of them give the
    necessary approvals. The only application restricted as a precautionary measure
    is stabilizing liquid infant formula and a definitive toxicology is about to be
    published that is expected to remove this restriction.

    Why all the concern about the safety of using carrageenan in foods? Starting in
    the 1960s there have been research studies showing that if excessive doses of
    carrageenan are consumed in animal trials inflammation can be induced in the
    small intestine. Likewise, inappropriate methods of introducing the carrageenan
    into the animals, i.e. in the animals’ only source of drinking water, have
    induced an inflammatory response in the small intestine. However, there has
    never been a validated inflammatory response in humans over the seventy plus
    years carrageenan has been used in foods. The anecdotal “upset tummies”
    reported in blogs as coming from consuming a food containing carrageenan are

    reliable sources of information on the safety of carrageenan.

    Inflammatory responses in animals only occur when carrageenan can cross the
    blood membrane barrier of the small intestine. This only occurs when the
    extreme feeding conditions mentioned above are employed. Normal feeding regimes
    induce no such response.

    Over the last decade a group of molecular biologists at the University of
    Illinois at Chicago lead by Dr Joanne Tobacman have been exploring the in vitro
    interaction of carrageenan with various genes and conclude that carrageenan can
    cause inflammation in the gut via a binding mechanism involving TLR-4
    receptors. This group also concluded that carrageenan degrades in the gut and
    the degraded carrageenan can permeate the membrane barrier. Recent studies
    refute both of these claims, and furthermore this recent research questions the
    validity using in vitro studies to mimic the in vivo events in the GI tract
    when a human consumes a food containing carrageenan.

    The bottom line on the safety issue is that in spite of all the efforts to
    downgrade or question the safety of carrageenan, particularly by bloggers,
    carrageenan is a safe food ingredient in all of the major regulatory jurisdictions
    of the world.

  • Davidstoben

    The worst and most dangerous part of carageenan are its sulfites. Anyone sensitive to sulfites (1% of the population and 3% of asthmatics) suffers pain, indigestion, delirium and possibly death from their ingestion. As one of those people, I can’t tell you the horror of discovering the thing you’ve been sipping for the last few minutes contains something that is probably going to make you at least incredibly uncomfortable if not cause vomiting, disorientation, and extreme fatigue. Imagine this happening in the middle of the work-day or on the road. This substance should absolutely be illegal in foodstuffs.

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  • http://www.waterbearer95.tumblr.com/ Emillie

    ATTENTION!!!!! Natur-a doesn’t have carrageenan. Maybe it did before, but none of the ones I buy now have it.