[Prior to the last meeting of the National Organic Standards, Medical Researcher Dr. Joanne Tobacman provide the board with expert testimony detailing her independent research into the health impacts of the use of the controversial additive carrageenan in organic foods. It has been widely used in the entire food industry for more than a half century. Dr. Tobacman’s testimony appears below.]
I am a physician-scientist at the University of Illinois College of Medicine who has been studying the effects of carrageenan in human cells and in animal models for almost two decades. With collaborators, I have published 18 peer-reviewed papers that address the biological effects of carrageenan. Most of this work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Veterans’ Administration.
In this comment, three major points are addressed. These are: 1) exposure to carrageenan causes inflammation which is harmful; 2) the amount of carrageenan consumed in the human diet is sufficient to cause inflammation; 3) both undegraded and degraded carrageenan cause inflammation.
Carrageenan is used in food due to its potent chemical effects that improve the texture of food products, but carrageenan has no nutritional value. The same potent chemical effects that change the texture of processed foods can lead to harmful biological effects in human cells and in animals exposed to carrageenan.
Carrageenan has been used in thousands of biological experiments over several decades, because it predictably causes inflammation. Inflammation is well-known to be the basis for many human diseases and is associated with over 100 human diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and arteriosclerosis, and inflammation is also linked to cancer.
Click here to view the rest of Dr. Tobacman’s testimony and attached research articles. (This will load as a pdf and is nearly 3 MB in size.)