Who Qualified The Term “Organic”

Who Qualified The Term “Organic”

Horizon Organic Milk

In our world today we are drowning in health fads, ie. stainless steal water bottles, finger toed shoes, the all new “Paleo” diet and even better, the good ole HCG Diet (who, what and why?!!?). However, at the top of this list, and for good reason, is one of the largest “fads” taking over the world, “organic” food. 

The goal of this blog is not to give you the history of organic food, what it is, soil health and how good organic food is for you. The purpose is to make sure your hard earned dollars are being spent on exactly what you are intending they be spent on. Whole, fresh, vital organic foods. Not foods dressed up with organic labels hiding some very scary and damaging ingredients like Carrageenan.

Many research scientists have had their eye on Carrageenan for a while now and once it entered our radar, we knew it was a topic to learn more about and certainly begin to question.

In an article called Food-junk and some mystery ailments, Ray Peat, PhD highlights the dirty little secrets on the effects this food additive can be having on your health, and how many products it can be found in.

Why is it in foods?

Carrageenan is used as a thickening and emulsifying agent to improve the texture of ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, soy milk and other processed foods. It can also be found in almost all toothpaste, laxatives and much more. One thing is certain, this additive has no place in items labeled organic or food items intended for human consumption.

In fact, it just so happens this substance stimulates the innate immune system which can and does and will lead to systemic inflammation. Unfortunately, it is these small details (sarcasm) that are easily justifiable by the FDA and shrugged off as not important because, “these molecules are too large to be absorbed.” Ray Peat PhD.

What is even more interesting and should make us all raise an eyebrow is the correlating increase in disease caused by chronic inflammation. Of course, we can not only pin point carrageenan but if you begin to layer the degree of exposure to toxic substances we are being exposed to, it begins to matter ALOT. 

The body does not recognize the molecular structure of Carrageenan, meaning it is something the human body cannot break down. Dr. Tobacman reported, “when laboratory mice are exposed to low concentrations of carrageenan in their water for 18 days, they develop profound glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action. These responses are precursors of diabetes, which is associated with activation of the innate immune pathway that carrageenan stimulates.”

Shifting gears…lactose intolerance is a topic we have discussed before and one that seems to be getting alot of attention as everyone seems to be lactose intolerant and scared out of their minds to go within 10 feet of anything dairy. Of course, some of this can be for good reason. Lactose intolerance is a result of weekend metabolic health and/or hypothyroidism, both of which break down and compromise the total of the endocrine system and the integrity of the digestive system. When these systems have been compromised, breaking down lactose becomes quite a challenge. Solution: heal the metabolism, restore the ability to break down lactose and consume higher quality dairy products. Because what if lactose intolerance had more to do with the “other stuff” in the dairy product? Is it truly lactose causing the immune system reaction or is it CARAGEENAN?

What if your babies colic, your lactose intolerance, your stomach issues (bloating, gas, skin issues) after consuming ice cream and other GI issues you and/or your family are suffering with are being influenced more by the Carrageenan? Of course, it is never one thing, but again…layers.

What is Carrageenan?

Carrageenan (a polysaccharide) is just like MSG. MSG is taken from brown rice, so it is considered to be “natural,” just like Carrageenan. Carrageenan is taken from red seaweed and “unlike other gums, it is highly sulfated and contains certain bonds (alpha-­‐1,3-­‐disaccharide bonds) which are foreign to human cells and stimulate an innate immune response. This immune response leads to chronic inflammation.

Dr. Tobacman M.D., after explaining some of her experiments, goes on to say, “Please recall that 18 days of carrageenan intake in the mice produced profound glucose intolerance and impaired response to insulin, rather than intake over an entire lifetime during which humans are likely to ingest carrageenan.”

Carrageenan since the 1940’s has been recognized as a dangerous allergen to the human body. “Since then it has become a standard laboratory material used to produce inflammatory tumors (granulomas), immunodeficiency, arthritis, and other inflammations. It has also become an increasingly common material in the food industry.” Ray Peat PhD

The interesting thing about Carrageenan, is that it interacts with many bacteria in the bowel and is absorbed through a process called presorption. Any type of stress or anxiety in the body will affect circulation to the liver and the intestine. Chronic stress damages how our cells produce energy and the ability of our GI system to exclude larger molecules like Carrageenan. When the body is under chronic states of inflammation (leading cause of degenerative diseases),  bacteria, and other toxins such as Carrageenan make their way into the blood, overload the liver and thus decreasing detoxification and immune system functioning. “Carrageenan poisoning is one known cause of the disappearance of macrophages.” Ray Peat PhD.

In this deficient state, our body is not longer producing energy at the cell level and takes a double hit as Carrageen, bacteria and toxins continue to perpetuate the inhibition production of energy at the cell level. Lactic acid is produced in excess, which is a metabolic burden to the liver. As the liver tries to convert the lactic acid to glucose, using stored glycogen (if there is any) for energy production. But with most people, storage of glycogen is not happening, so adrenaline production is stimulated.


  1. Carrageen inhibits Cytochrome P-450 in the liver which is in charge of Phase 1 detoxification
  2. Carrageen has been show to cause intestinal lesions resembling Ulcerative Colitis
  3. Carrageenan is inflammatory and carcinogenic
  4. Carrageenan has been shown in laboratory experiments to cause ulceration of the cecum and large intestine
  5. Carrageenan is not digestive, leads to immune system reaction, increases endotoxin and estrogen in the gut, increases the load on the liver and leads to system inflammation at the cell level.
  6. Carrageenan increases exposure and production of estrogen
  7. Carrageenan causes altered cellular respiration, just like unsaturated fats:)
  8. Carrageenan has an inhibitory affect on T-cells and is being studied on its impact on herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2, HIV and Chlamydia trachomatis
  9. Carrageenan can lead to “adrenal” issues, blood sugar handling and hypoglycemia, increase rT3 and hypothyroidism

Timeline of how Carrageenan has made it into our food

1960’s -­present: Starting in 1961, animal studies consistently show that degradedcarrageenan is carcinogenic.

1969: Researchers find that degraded carrageenan causes ulcerations and inflammation in lab animals that closely resemble ulcerative colitis, a human inflammatory bowel disease.

1969 -­ present: Researchers testing treatments for ulcerative colitis use degraded carrageenan to induce the disease in laboratory animals.

1973: A study shows that degraded carrageenan induces inflammation in the digestive system of monkeys. This shows that degraded carrageenan affects the gastrointestinal system of primates as well as rodents.

1975: A study with rhesus monkeys finds adverse effects in the intestinal tract when the animals were given low levels (1% solution) of undegraded carrageenan in their drinking water.

1978: A study published in Cancer Research finds that rats fed a diet containing undegraded carrageenan had higher rates of cancer than rats fed a control diet without carrageenan. The authors conclude: “The undegraded carrageenan in the diet had an enhancing effect in colorectal carcinogenesis in rats.”

1980-­1981: Leading carrageenan researchers R. Marcus and James Watt publish two letters in the Lancet, titled “Danger of Carrageenan in Foods” and “Potential Hazards of Carrageenan,” pointing out health concerns with the consumption of carrageenan, including undegraded carrageenan.

They note that the harmful effects of undegraded carrageenan in animals “are almost certainly associated with its degradation during passage through the gastrointestinal tract.”

1983: With adequate scientific data showing the carcinogenicity of degraded carrageenan in lab animals, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies degraded carrageenan as Group 2B, “Possibly carcinogenic to humans.”24 The Agency determines that there is not enough evidence to classify undegraded carrageenan as a possible human carcinogen.

1986: A study finds that exposure of rats to 6% undegraded carrageenan in the diet for 24 weeks, with weekly injections of the carcinogenic substance 1,2-­‐ dimethylhydrazine (1,2-­‐DMH), was associated with an increase in tumors from 40% to 75% and with the more frequent occurrence of larger and proximal tumors.

1995: Three scientists perform the Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) review26 for the National Organic Standards Board, to determine whether carrageenan is an ingredient appropriate for use in organic foods. None of the three reviewers mentions the carcinogenicity in animal studies of degraded carrageenan, or the “possibly carcinogenic to humans” classification by the IARC. None mention the studies suggesting possible adverse health effects of undegraded carrageenan.

One reviewer downplays the potential human health effects of carrageenan by writing: “Carrageenan has a high molecular weight and must be distinguished from lower molecular weight “degraded” carrageenan which may have adverse health effects.”

The reviewers doing the 1995 TAP review do not include more recent studies (widely available in 1995) pointing to potential human health problems, such as the 1992 study by Wilcox et al, with Proctor and Gamble, that finds an association between epithelial cell loss and the consumption of both undegraded and degraded carrageenan.

1996: The National Research Council of the National Academy of Science adopts the IARC classification for degraded carrageenan (possible human carcinogen).

2001: A study finds higher levels of tumors in rats given food-­‐grade carrageenan, yet reports that the difference is not statistically significant. This study, partially funded by the food industry, publishes its findings with the conclusive and misleading title and conclusion that food-­‐grade, “undegraded” carrageenan is safe (despite its findings of higher cancer rates). Marinalg, the industry trade group for carrageenan processors, uses the study to reassure its customers that carrageenan is safe.

September 2001: Joanne Tobacman, MD, then Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Iowa (now Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago), publishes an article in the academic, peer-­‐ reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Dr. Tobacman conducted an independent review of the scientific literature on carrageenan, and concluded: “Because of the acknowledged carcinogenic properties of degraded carrageenan in animal models and the cancer-­promoting effects of undegraded carrageenan in experimental models, the widespread use of carrageenan in the Western diet should be reconsidered” (emphasis added).

March 2003: The European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Food reviews Tobacman’s 2001 article, and reviews recent safety data on carrageenan. The Committee suggests that the amount of degraded carrageenan in food-­‐grade carrageenan be kept to levels below 5%, “in order to ensure that the presence of any degraded carrageenan is kept to a minimum.”

The Commission also reaffirms its earlier position that it remains inadvisable to use carrageenan as an ingredient in infant formula.

2005: Marinalg, the industry trade group, convenes a working group to determine the levels of degraded carrageenan in its products. The working group tests 12 samples of food-­‐grade carrageenan from a variety of suppliers in six different laboratories, to measure the presence of degraded carrageenan and determine if the 5% limit is feasible.

The results from the industry’s own test results are cause for serious concern. First, the levels of degraded carrageenan detected in the samples varied considerably depending on the laboratory performing the tests. This suggests that even the industry does not have a reliable way of determining the levels of degraded carrageenan in food-­‐grade carrageenan.35 If the carrageenan manufacturers have no reliable way of testing levels of degraded carrageenan in their products, how can they claim their food-­‐grade carrageenan is safe?

Second, the results showed that 8 of the 12 samples of food-­‐grade carrageenan contained higher than 5% degraded carrageenan according to at least one of the laboratories (in many cases, according to multiple laboratories).

Most alarmingly, all samples contained at least some degraded carrageenan according to the majority of laboratories.

Not a single sample could confidently claim to be entirely free of the material that is classified as a possible human carcinogen.

The highest level of degraded carrageenan found in a sample was 25%.

2002-­2012: Industry-­‐sponsored scientists question whether the inflammatory nature of carrageenan is rodent-­‐specific, and whether the results of animal studies can be extrapolated to humans.36 37 Scientists conduct experiments using human colonic epithelial cells and find that carrageenan, even low levels of food-­‐grade carrageenan, induce inflammation in human colon cells as well.

2008: The National Organic Standards Board considers whether to re-­‐allow carrageenan during the Sunset process. No public interest groups or scientists chime in. The NOSB receives ten comments from industry, including carrageenan manufacturers, the Organic Trade Association, and various organic food manufacturers using carrageenan, all claiming carrageenan is safe and essential in organic processing.

January 2012: Marinalg reports that, after eight years of planning, experimentation, and analysis (2003 to 2011), the industry has been unable to reliably measure the levels of degraded carrageenan in its products in the laboratories of its members, its customers, or in independent laboratories.

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.



Peat, Ray PhD., Food-junk and some mystery ailments.

Now what to do? Most people are saying, we can’t eat anything anymore. Well, personally that is just one way to look at it. If you flip the coin, you are learning about things that potentially can harm your body and lead to disease. So all in all, you are not just learning what you can’t eat, but you are actually learning what you SHOULD eat.

Research by Dr. Joanne K. Tobacman: Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine

Dear Members of the National Organic Standards Board:

I am a physician-scientist at the University of Illinois College of Medicine who has been studying the effects of carrageenan in human cells and in animal models for almost two decades. With collaborators, I have published 18 peer-reviewed papers that address the biological effects of carrageenan. Most of this work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Veterans’ Administration.

In this comment, three major points are addressed. These are: 1) exposure to carrageenan causes inflammation which is harmful; 2) the amount of carrageenan consumed in the human diet is sufficient to cause inflammation; 3) both undegraded and degraded carrageenan cause inflammation.


Josh and Jeanne Rubin

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