Monthly Archives: August 2012

Is Carrageenan safe? I’m thinking I won’t drink your milkshake after all.

Oh there’s been so much news this summer.

I was preparing my class, and wanted to begin with a commercial that relies on the ignorance of the viewing public for its stance that milk is an all natural product, whereas soy, rice, and almond “milks” are imitations with all kinds of odd ingredients that must be inherently dangerous:

Let me run this down for you quickly.  Riboflavin is a B vitamin, Vitamin A palmitate is added to all cow’s milk and all of its analogs — like soy, almond, etc. Zinc gluconate is zinc, which occurs naturally in animal products and would be added to the analogs (helps with immunity and growth).  Calcium carbonate is calcium in the same form as Tums (cow’s milk is mostly calcium phosphate).  All that stuff just proves that most of America doesn’t know good from bad about what they’re eating.  And now you do.

But what about carrageenan?  Carrageenan is derived from red seaweed and is used as an emulsifier — that is, it brings fat and water together so things like ICE CREAM (made with…ahem, MILK), salad dressing, chocolate milk…and a thickener in stuff like dieting foods and shakes.  That I knew.  I looked it up to see what else might contain the stuff and its safety and was completely surprised by what I found.

Though carrageenan is on the GRAS list, and it’s against the Delaney Clause to knowingly add any substance into food that might cause cancer, carrageenan might not be all that safe (click that link — teratogenic means “cancer causing” and you’ll see that bit at the end about more necessary research).  It puts a lot more General in the Regarded As Safe category.  How did I not know this?

The Cornucopia Institute (again with them!) did a little peeking around and essentially felt the same:

May 2012: The National Organic Standards Board again reviews carrageenan during the Sunset process and will decide whether to continue allowing carrageenan in certified organic foods.

Yeah.  Carrageenan, we didn’t date in high school, but I’m pretty much through with you.  Which means I need to find a new soy milk, (I’m talking to you, Trader Joe’s).  Damn.  A little list to help with the avoidance right here.  It’s not that if it sneaks into the occasional something I feel I might die, but why expose myself to something daily that might not be a good thing?

Hey, Dairy  Council, for the first time EVER, I’m going to say: Thanks!  I’m still not drinking your milk, or your milkshake, though.  It’s a wonder you didn’t bring up the sugar in Imitation Milks (except the unsweetened ones, which taste like Kaopectate), but that would expose the fact that most grown up folks of all nationalities but Northern European have trouble digesting lactose, the sugar in milk.  Too complicated, right?  I hear that.

Californians: Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) labeling: YES on Prop 37

Updated October 18, 2012: Follow the money, my friends, follow the money.  Or, Okay, f0llow the voter’s guide.  It’s a labeling law.  It will improve your knowledge, and if giant companies funding this are so worried, they could always change their practices to meet the new demands issued by people who know what goes into their food.

Check this out: The parent companies of some organic health foods (Kashi, Horizon, Silk, Larabar) are giving money to fight the labeling of GMOs.  We need to pass this proposition, Californians.  The arguments against the proposition imply that it’s a ban — it’s merely information, but it’s information that will likely cause you to steer clear and will cause product reformulations that have your health rather than a company’s convenience/cost-effectiveness in mind.

This sort of rending of garments within the food industry is nothing new.  It took forever to get trans fat on the label, and to get added trans fat out of the frying bins.  It took forever to get menu labeling, but now we have it and food companies and restaurants that complied are still in business.

Don’t shy away from having information made available to you; even if you choose to look away afterward, it will only improve your health when your food (and that of your children) cannot be adulterated so easily.  Just saying.  Thanks, Cornucopia Institute, for the poster: