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Why is a Known Toxic Substance Allowed in Organic Foods?

Elizabeth Renter
April 11th, 2013
Updated 05/08/2014 at 11:39 am
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organicword 263x164 Why is a Known Toxic Substance Allowed in Organic Foods?We’re taught that if a food has a USDA organic label, then the produce is just about as good as it comes—that the ingredients have been through rigorous testing and are safe for human consumption, or at the very least the product is free from harmful pesticides and genetic engineering. While the USDA certified organic is indeed the way to go, not everything approved under their standards is good for you. On the contrary, some may be very harmful. Such is the case with a substance known as carrageenan.

Carrageenan: A Toxic Food Ingredient

Carrageenan is a substance extracted from seaweed. In food, they are used as gelling and thickening agents, most often in dairy and meat products. You’ll find it in ice cream, cream, desserts, some beers, diet soda, veggie dogs, and processed meats. And although some organic food companies (Eden Foods, Oikos yogurt, Natural by Nature, and more) have sworn off the ingredient, others intend to play on the ignorance of the public and their friends in high places to keep carrageenan around.

In numerous animal studies carrageenan has been found to cause gastrointestinal issues and inflammation, and cancer. In addition, diets high in carrageenan have been linked to the development of intestinal ulcers and other digestive issues. The Cornucopia Institute (a nonprofit which supports food research and “justice for family scale farming”) recommends anyone with inflammatory digestive issues like chronic diarrhea, IBS, or inflammatory bowel disease, to eliminate carrageenan from their diet altogether.

Interestingly, the USDA is aware of the studies of this popular food ingredient, though it maintains a spot on their “safe” list. Why is that? Well, let’s look at who is approving the foods on this list.

As revealed in The Organic Watergate – White Paper from The Cornucopia Institute, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is made up of several companies who have a vested interest in keeping organics as non-organic as possible. After all, making stricter organic regulations would cost them money.

Just a few of the corporations represented in the decision making NOSB include:

  • Purina Ralcorp
  • General Mills
  • Campbell Soup
  • Smucker’s
  • Dean Foods
  • Driscoll’s

Related Read: Organic Food Companies Owned by Mega Corporations

It’s sort of like creating a board to oversee allegations of police brutality and then staffing the board with cops. (Another highly questionable though common occurrence).

As The Organic Watergate reports:

“Carrageenan was reviewed in 1995 by three scientists with professional relationships to corporate agribusiness, and only one pointed out the potential human health impacts of degraded carrageenan. This is especially outrageous since the scientific community had known for decades, based on an abundance of peer-reviewed published literature, that degraded carrageenan is an inflammatory agent and carcinogenic in lab animals.”

So, back to the original question: why is a known carcinogen present in organic foods? Because of money—those who have it also have power and do not want to sacrifice either for the sake of consumer health.

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  • Stephen Lewis

    Organic foods are the best foods are suitable for our life as well as others also. But there are some organic foods in which some reagents are added to keep them fresh and good. One of the items among them is Carrageenan. Further investigation is still being continued to find that the exact amount of intoxicates in the food.

  • Shreela

    Since carrageenan inflammation & pain always strike me in the exact same area of my large intestine 20-50min after eating it, along with the fact that it’s also used in toothpaste and adult lubricant, it seems to me that people whose gut-linings aren’t completely intact are the ones who suffer IBS type pain after consuming carrageenan. And those whose gut-linings are still completely intact are wondering what all the fuss is about. One of these days I’ll try talking my GP into ordering a Mannitol/Lactulose test for leaky gut to test my theory.

    • Shreela

      It would seem I may have convinced my new GP to entertain the thought I might have Leaky Gut after explaining my pain+inflammation starting about 20′ish minutes after consuming products containing carrageenan. But she didn’t want to order a Mannitol/Lactulose test on me, since my former GP had ordered a Celiac test a few years prior (not sure what test he ordered back then, just that it was negative for Celiac).

      But she did order an almost no-carb diet: No grains, especially gluten; no starches; no sugars; no alcohol, and try to limit non-starch complex-carb veg, because she remembered that from a Leaky Gut seminar she’d recently attended.

      After reading many Healing Leaky Gut diets, it seems it’ll take a minimum of 30 days, but six months seems more likely, considering my gut’s allowing carrageenan to pass through into my intestinal tissue (my theory, she didn’t agree or disagree).

  • anonymous

    Carrageenan is found in most of the alternative milks and yogurts. Rice Dream Rice Drink (Original) is the only one I have found without it listed in the ingredients. I am looking for a coconut milk that does not have it.. My acupunturist advised me to avoid carrageenan awhile ago and now it is finally becoming known.

  • debbie

    WHO TO TRUST? My own food. The government has allies in pesticides that are claimed to be 'organic'. Money talks with the likes of Dow and Monsanto and their friends. Ignorant people need to be aware of this. Sad that money goes into these businesses and those same businesses have stock in the pharmaceuticals that will help cure your disease that comes from them.
    How do we wake up the general population who have no clue to this??????????

    • michael

      just keep talking to people. plant that seed in their heads. we need flyer campaigns. design your own flyers and the storehouse of your own knowledge and passion to wake up the people you come in contact with. flyers work really well. post them at bulletin boards in stores, pass them out at your neighborhood doors. send them to the city council (just to let them know that we know). pass them out to people at Farmer's Markets. just drop them off wherever you are where somebody could just pick it up. any little thing that we do actually does makes a difference and shift in thinking in the long run.

      "vote" with your dollar. buy only organic labels you know and trust over the USDA. Farmer's markets and your own gardens are the best. community gardens. off-grid gardens. there's a bunch of Grassroots Indie organic labels out there too. the more we give them press and our purchase, the more the market must and will open for honest organics.

    • cherie

      I don't use pesticides or fertilizers either, but my neighbors do, and I worry about runoff from their lawns to my gardens.

  • anonymous

    USDA Organic is definitely not pure organic. They are the govt. They've been known to allow a percentage of insectides, pesticides, herbicides to pass through and are definitely not 100 % pure organic.

    Grassroots and Independent Organic standards and your local Organic Farmer's are the best
    resources and sources to trust.