An ingredient linked to gastrointestinal inflammation, classified as a “possible carcinogen”

Research links the food ingredient carrageenan to gastrointestinal inflammation and colon cancer, yet it is still found in many foods, including, disturbingly, many certified organic foods.

The government is unlikely to act in the interest of consumer health and remove carrageenan from conventional foods, but we have a shot at seeing carrageenan removed from organic foods. At the end of May, the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board will be voting on whether to continue allowing carrageenan as an approved ingredient in organic foods.

An unholy alliance between the USDA and corporate agribusiness snuck carrageenan into organics—we must expose and condemn this corruption of truly healthy, natural food.

The last time carrageenan was under review, in 2008, only ten comments were submitted – all from food manufacturers claiming that carrageenan is “safe and essential in organic processing.” The ingredient was continued to be allowed in organic foods.

Carrageenan is neither safe nor essential in organics! This time around, the USDA must hear from organic stakeholders, demanding that carrageenan be removed.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer recognizes degraded carrageenan as a “possible human carcinogen,” based on research showing that it leads to higher rates of colon cancer in lab animals. There are two kinds of carrageenan – degraded and undegraded. Carrageenan processors claim that food-grade carrageenan falls entirely in the undegraded category; however, a 2005 study showed that not a single sample of food-grade carrageenan could confidently claim to be entirely free of the potential cancer-causing material.

Additionally, later studies have shown that even low levels of food-grade carrageenan induce inflammation in the human colon, and that it can be broken down to degraded carrageenan in the human gastrointestinal tract. Thus, no carrageenan can be considered safe!

Organic standards promise consumers that only substances that are not harmful to human health are allowed in organic foods. Let the USDA know that carrageenan does not live up to that promise!

See more information on carrageenan here:

Submit your comment by Thursday May 3

How to post a comment for the NOSB:

Direct url:!submitComment;D=AMS-NOP-12-0017-0001

Note: Fill-in the required fields only. For “Organization Name,” please type “citizen” or “consumer” unless you are submitting comments on behalf of an organization. Other fields such as “submitter’s representative” and “government agency” should be left blank.

Suggested language: (please personalize. Unique comments carry a lot more weight than form letters. If you have had a negative gastrointestinal reaction to foods containing carrageenan, please share this with the NOSB):

“My name is XX, and I am a consumer [or describe your position/affiliation].

Please remove carrageenan from the list of approved ingredients for organic foods. Organic foods should be free from questionable and potentially harmful ingredients.

The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 says that non-organic ingredients will only be allowed in organic food if they are not harmful to human health. Recent studies have shown that food-grade carrageenan contains degraded carrageenan, a possible human carcinogen that causes inflammation of the colon.
It would be unacceptable for the National Organic Standards Board to re-approve carrageenan based on scientific research.