Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Is Carrageenan Safe or Dangerous?

Undenatured carrageenan is a natural stabilizer, binding agent, and emulsifier used in products such as toothpaste in place of SLS and other truly undesirable ingredients commonly used in mass market products. It is also used in some vegan-friendly softgel capsule material as an alternative to animal-derived gelatin.

There is an Internet myth that carrageenan is unsafe; due primarily to confusion with a so-called “denatured carrageenan” polymer that is actually poligeenan, a heavily processed low molecular weight seaweed derivative currently used only as an x-ray imaging component. Poligeenan, previously used in pharmaceuticals, is quite different from the undenatured high molecular weight material that we use. Due to the safety concerns over poligeenan, regulations routinely require the carrageenan added to foods to have high molecular weight to ensure its integrity. But there are no unresolved safety concerns with undenatured carrageenan. 

Carrageenan has been thoroughly vetted by national and international public health authorities over a number of decades, even recently in response to the ongoing blogger-driven controversies, so there is no remaining basis of concern. Even its use in infant formulas was recently reconfirmed to be safe, and it’s helpful in distributing the nutrients more evenly to avoid the settling out that could otherwise cause uneven nutrient intake when a bottle is only partially consumed. 

After repeated investigations, the evidence for carrageenan safety is stronger than ever. Carrageenan is extremely safe and present in a number of healthy seaweeds; only the denatured form of carrageenan - a drug - is toxic. 


·        Public health and carrageenan regulation: a review and analysis. Borowitzka et al. (eds.), Nineteenth International Seaweed Symposium. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-9619-8_8. Developments in Applied Phycology.