Carrageenan Chaos!

You might have heard some controversy around a certain food additive called carrageenan. I’m putting this post together in order to showcase certain articles and studies that I’ve found on the topic. I also wanted to ask you (yes, you) what you think about all of this.

I personally choose to avoid carrageenan… but now I’m living in Costa Rica once again. (I moved back from the U.S. last December.) And we definitely do not have such a wide variety of animal feed and treats here. Finding soft, high quality training treats can be a real challenge.

So… on a scale of 1 to Voldemort, how evil is carrageenan, really? (Please feel free to share any & all research and view points!) Thank you.

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“Our research found that greater than 70% of canned pet foods contain carrageenan, a non-nutritive food stabilizer extracted from red seaweed. Peer-reviewed and published research indicates that carrageenan is known to cause intestinal inflammation with the potential to lead to cancer, even in small doses…

New independent research (published in 2014) at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago, using both human and mouse epithelial cells, further demonstrates the mechanism by which inflammatory responses occur after carrageenan exposure using doses less than the anticipated average daily intake (50 mg/30 g mouse vs. 250 mg/60 kg person). This research demonstrates for the first time that carrageenan-induced inflammation occurs in both humans and mice, indicating that it is likely to cause a similar reaction in all mammals, including cats and dogs.”

– “Is Your Pet’s Food as Safe as You Think?
by Linley Dixon, PhD, with the Cornucopia Institute

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“Carrageenan is a common food additive that is frequently used in ‘loaf-‘ or ‘paté-‘ style canned pet foods… Carrageenan is derived from edible red seaweed—a harmless-enough beginning, as many varieties of seaweed are quite nutritious. The seaweed’s gelatinous properties are utilized to thicken and provide a smooth texture to many canned dog and cat foods. For hundreds of years, ‘carraigín’ has been made in the kitchen by boiling Irish moss as a base for a pudding-like dessert.

But the industrially produced carrageenan of today is a far cry from those homely beginnings. Now it’s a highly processed ingredient that’s extracted using strong alkaline solvents. Food-grade or ‘undegraded’ carrageenan is on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) list of items that are ‘Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS),’ and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) defines it as an acceptable emulsifier, stablizer, and thickener.

It’s used not only in pet food, but also in hundreds of other products, including beer, ice cream, jelly, diet soda, yogurt, toothpaste, shampoo, and gel air fresheners. Carrageenan is often used in vegetarian and vegan food products as a substitute for gelatin. It’s even permitted as an ingredient in organic foods. However, in the European Union, its use in infant formulas is prohibited. On the other hand, poligeenan, or ‘degraded’ carrageenan, consists of smaller fragments, and for decades this form has been used to intentionally induce inflammation in animal models for research purposes. It’s also carcinogenic. Poligeenan is not permitted in food.

Veterinary nutritionists, pet food manufacturers, and, of course, producers of carrageenan assert that food-grade carrageenan is completely safe for pets to eat. However, even food-grade carrageenan is not perfectly pure; it contains a ‘low percentage’ of the smaller, more damaging fragments. This may explain why even food-grade carrageenan can cause problems.”

– “Is This Sneaky Ingredient Sickening Your Pet?
by Jean Hofve, DVM

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Here, the Cornucopia Institute answers a question about “food-grade carrageenan”:

I emailed a company that uses carrageenan, and they claim that they use only food-grade carrageenan, which is safe.

Since 1969, researchers have found that food-grade carrageenan is linked to gastrointestinal inflammation, ulcerations and lesions. Several studies with food-grade carrageenan found it to be a promoter of colon tumors in laboratory animals.

The only studies that conclude that food-grade carrageenan is safe to consume have been funded or commissioned by carrageenan suppliers or the food industry. Studies pointing to harm have been funded by independent or government sources, including the National Institutes of Health. The statement by some food processors that ‘food-grade carrageenan is safe’ is based on a handful of self-serving, industry-funded studies.

Please read our report for more information.”

– Cornucopia’s FAQ

Last but not least, here are some pretty hardcore carrageenan studies from the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

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