Did You Know…
…consuming this “natural” food additive can have fatal consequences?
Although it’s usually listed as a “natural” ingredient on food labels, a common food additive called carrageenan (a highly processed derivative of red seaweed) is anything but healthful.
Unfortunately, in 2012, the FDA rejected a petition protect public health by banning the use of carrageenan. Dr. Joanne Tobacman, a physician-researcher at the University of Illinois-Chicago College of Medicine, filed the petition because she is convinced carrageenan is hazardous to human health.
Why is Carrageenan Added and Why is It Dangerous?
Carrageenan is used as a texturizer for a wide range of foods and beverages. Dr. Tobacman, author of 18 peer-reviewed studies on the biological effects of carrageenan, has shown ingesting foods containing carrageenan can cause inflammation. In fact, drug developers used to administer carrageenan to cause tissue inflammation when testing the anti-inflammatory properties of new products.
Dr. Andrew Weil has cautioned against the consumption of carrageenan for over a decade. “All forms of carrageenan are capable of causing inflammation. This is bad news, writes Dr. Weil. He goes on to explain inflammation is “a root cause” of a number of serious illnesses, such as…
“All told, I recommend avoiding… foods containing carrageenan,” concludes Weil.
FDA Picks Profits Over Public Health
Though available research indicates carrageenan can cause a host of problems, the FDA refuses to impose limitations on its use. Charlotte Vallaeys, director of Farm and Food Policy for non-profit food policy research group Cornucopia, believes the evaluation conducted by the FDA was “sloppy and incomplete.” Vallaeys says the FDA denial of Tobacman’s petition to ban carrageenan was “riddled with overt bias which appears to protect an industry’s profits at the expense of public health.”
The FDA’s decision is even more inexplicable considering this fact:
|FACT: Tobacman discovered that the FDA has had sufficient evidence from animal studies to limit the use of carrageenan in foods since 1972. In the rejection to the petition, the FDA claimed the studies, some carried out with funding from the National Institutes of Health, were “disputed.”|
The so-called “dispute” comes from Duika Burges Watson, a geography professor at Durham University in the United Kingdom, Watson has no medical background. As Vallaeys wisely points out: “It is unclear why the FDA would place higher value on the opinion of a social scientist from the UK than on the medical studies founded by the National Institutes of Health.”
Carrageenan: As “Safe” As Intestinal Poison Ivy
Though it’s still legal to use carrageenan, increasing consumer awareness about its negative impact on the human body has put food and beverage companies on edge. However, these companies are reluctant to relinquish a useful additive like carrageenan—so instead they are spreading misinformation. Many of the claims are centered on the idea that because carrageenan is natural, it must be safe.
“Natural does not mean safe,” says Vallaeys. “Poison ivy is natural, but you wouldn’t put it in skin lotion … carrageenan appears to do to your gut what poison ivy does to your skin.”
Cornucopia is calling for the FDA to reevaluate the petition to ban carrageenan. Until then, it’s up to shoppers to search from carrageenan-free products. A guide to truly safe, all-natural brands can be found on Cornucopia’s website. Concerned consumers can also contact their local lawmakers and the FDA to voice their opinions.
And finally, we must remember that dollars are often even more powerful than votes. If consumers stop buying products that contain “natural” carrageenan, food manufacturers will be forced to listen.
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