Is careegenan dangerous?

I've been drinking soy milk for 15 years, everyday for breakfast and I've recently heard that careegenan (an ingredient in the soy milk that I drink) is a known cancer causing carcinogen. I'm very confused on the topic because I've heard that it's not bad and I've heard that it's toxic.... Have I done great harm to my body by drinking this ingredient so often?



ChefOno July 19, 2012

I thought anything "natural" and "organic" was automatically pure and healthful? In any case, carrageenan is not a carcinogen no matter what Wikipedia says. It has been tested and retested and found to be perfectly safe by numerous scientific studies around the world. I'd be much more concerned with soy's potential hormonal effects than anything else.

Carrageenan is an extremely versatile ingredient and serves as proof that nature isn't perfect and, like every single thing we do in the laboratories we call kitchens, it can be improved upon.

Carrageenan is used in soy "milk" to simulate the viscosity of cow's milk, to stabilize protein and fat suspension and improve mouthfeel. Purchase whatever soy products you please, it doesn't affect me. But, as just one example, its use as a stabilizer in whipping cream is of considerable use to us cooks so I'd thank everyone to put a cork in their unfounded fears before they spread like the MSG terror of a few years ago.

Side note: The spelling “carrageenan” has been adopted by the Committee on Carbohydrate Nomenclature of the American Chemical Society to be consistent with the use of the-an suffix for the name of polysaccharides.

savorthis July 19, 2012
There have also been concerns linking soy consumption with breast cancer because of the estrogen-like compounds. Though according to this article, it seems if you have an overall healthy lifestyle and only have soy milk in the morning you should be fine:
Slow C. July 19, 2012
Well, it's not that I disagree with the above. At all. It's just that I always wonder why carageenen needs to be added, asking yourself this question might help you decide that a product that needs "thickening" or "stabalizing" might not be the whole food you think that it is. While you are specifically asking about soy products, I also have this question about cow's milk cream--why add carageenen? Why add anything? Usually, these types of additives are used to cover deficiencies or to bulk up a product in an inexpensive way. (Just as an example, Natural by Nature whipping cream ingredients: cream, Organic Valley: cream and carageenen. Now OV has another brand of cream, to address the issue you mention, but why were they adding anything to begin with? Cream is perfectly cream all by itself!). I'm not trying to brew a firestorm, but I suggest choosing products that have fewer ingredients. While carageenen may or may not be carcinogenic, I have not seen any literature that supports it as a healthful additive; it is, more simply, a cost cutting measure for large food producers.
pierino July 19, 2012
Carageenen is not added to "bulk up" or cover "deficiencies". For large operations that maybe make ice cream for example, the product often has to be transported over thousands of miles under refrigeration. I could care less about soy milk myself but I do understand the commercial need for these things. Now, if you happen to live next door to a local place that brews up soy milk, go knock yourself out. Otherwise...

Voted the Best Reply!

HalfPint July 18, 2012
The simple answer is "No". There appears to be 2 types of carrageenan: low molecular (degraded) carrageenan and high molecular (undergraded) carrageenan. The degraded type DOES cause colon inflammation and can cause cancer which is why it is NOT approved for food use. The undergraded type has been proven in 150 studies to be safe in food use. No negative effects (from undergraded carrageenan) have been found in humans of any age, though to be on the safe side, the EU has regulated its use in foods for infants.

The alarm seems to be more with degraded carrageenan contaminating the undergraded (safe) carrageenan. The study that seems to have sparked this panic found that there was some degraded contamination in the undergraded samples that they tested. However, the amounts found are very small, too tiny to make an impact.

This link has good information (properly cited and annotated):

pierino July 18, 2012
Excellent answer from HalfPint. And the source of carrageenan is seaweed, a natural and normally healthy product. It's typically used as a stabilizing agent
HalfPint July 18, 2012
that should be "undegraded" not "undergraded". sorry, typing from an ipad can be so frustrating.
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