Carrageenan Information (in the chocolate milk)

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Q. What is Carrageenan??  


A. Carrageenan is a naturally-occurring seaweed extract. It is widely used in foods and non-foods to improve texture and stability. Common uses include meat and poultry, dairy products, canned pet food, cosmetics and toothpaste.  

Q. Has  Carrageenan ever been a cause of any acute or chronic disease? 

A. In 70+ years of carrageenan being used in processed foods, not a single substantiated claim of an acute or chronic disease has been reported as arising from carrageenan consumption.  On a more science-based footing, food regulatory agencies in the US, the EU, and in the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) repeatedly review and continue to approve carrageenan as a safe food additive.   

Q. What has led up to this misrepresentation of the safety of an important food stabilizer, gelling agent and thickener?  

A. It clearly has to be attributed to the research of Dr. Joanne Tobacman, an Associate Prof at the University of Illinois in Chicago.  She and a group of molecular biologists have accused carrageenan of being a potential inflammatory agent as a conclusion from laboratory experiments with cells of the digestive tract.  It requires a lot of unproven assumptions to even suggest that consumption of carrageenan in the human diet causes inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract.  One of the main diverges of her research is her research with a totally different substance called polligeenan and trying to link it with carrageenan. 


Q. What are the differences between poligeenan and carrageenan? 

A. The production process for poligeenan requires strong acid at high temp (about that of boiling water) for 6 hours or more.  These severe processing conditions convert the long chains of seaweed used to make carrageenan to much shorter ones: ten to one hundred times shorter.  In scientific terms the molecular weight of poligeenan is 10,000 to 20,000; whereas that of carrageenan is 200,000 to 800,000.  Concern has been raised about the amount of material in carrageenan with molecular weight less than 50,000.  The actual amount (well under 1%) cannot even be detected accurately with current technology. Certainly it presents no threat to human health.   Poligeenan ( which has been referred to as “degraded carrageenan” in pre-1988 scientific and regulatory publications) is not a component of carrageenan and cannot be produced in the digestive tract from carrageenan-containing foods.  

Q. Does carrageenan get absorbed in the digestive track? 

A. Carrageenan passes through the digestive system intact, much like food fiber. In fact, carrageenan is a combination of soluble and insoluble nutritional fiber, though its use level in foods is so low as not to be a significant source of fiber in the diet. 


  Carrageenan has been proven completely safe for consumption. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan. 


FDA Confirms Safety of Carrageenan 2013-01-07 | 09:04 In response to a 2008 citizens petition from Joanne K. Tobacman, M.D., the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the Department of Health and Human Services has concluded that the alleged claims made by Dr. Tobacman do not adequately support the revocation of 21 CFR 172.620, permitting the use of carrageenan for direct addition to food.Although the response was issued in June 2012, FDA’s letter was only made readily available to the public on Nov. 29, 2012.

CP Kelco, a world-leading carrageenan and food ingredient producer, commends the research and response by the FDA in validating the safety of the ingredient.

“CP Kelco, as now re-confirmed by the US government, has always believed in the safety, function and acceptance of carrageenan for use in food, beverages, toothpastes, pet foods, other applications; and 150 years of safe use as a food additive,” says Klaus Bjerrum, Carrageenan Product Category Director for CP Kelco.

In the response document, the FDA references several studies that contradict allegations from Dr. Tobacman that carrageenan is unsafe in food, and further concludes that the data in the studies referenced by Dr. Tobacman are not relevant “to exposure from human consumption of food containing the direct food additives in question.”

“As a leader in the food ingredient industry, we strive to stay at the forefront of health, safety and regulatory activities.We applaud the response of the FDA, and support their conclusions. Our goal is to ensure our customers and consumers have the most reliable information available to make educated and safe purchase choices,” said Charles Bowman, vice president, CP Kelco Marketing.

In other news, CP Kelco recently announced that all manufacturing facilities have been audited and have met the requirements for Food Safety System Certification (FSSC 22000), which meets the requirements of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).

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