Carageenan - is it safe to eat?
OK so most of us have heard of this thickener and we know it is in everything from soups to even some toothpastes. Is it good , is it bad? Well, this is getting a bit of lime-light on line at the moment and I thought it deserved some fair comment from the house of Martinnaise Food Products. Now it is not my mission to demonise this ingredient and certainly not to make bold, unsubstantiated claims either. Let me say from the get-go that we do not use carageenan in any of our products, we never have and never will. If for no other reason simply because of our own experience, which I will refer to a little later in this post. So lets keep things basic and as simple as possible.
So what is it? This is a thickener/ stabiliser for use in food products as well as other consumer products that is extracted from some species of edible seaweed -such as pictured below - and generally classified as safe for human consumption according to food and toxicology experts in the industry. It has time and time again been classified as completely safe for human consumption by the international food scientific community and they believe that this product has not been given a fair wrap. Having said that, results from certain scientific studies from from as far back as the 1960's have already caused a lot of controversy surrounding the safety of the use of carageenan. Many scientists have claimed that evidence suggests that carrageenan triggers #inflammation, gastrointestinal ulcerations, and that it damages your digestive system. Some scientists even believe that carrageenan can cause problems such as bloating and irritable bowel disease (IBD), and even of greater concern, colon #cancer which is so prevalent today.
Test in rodents have shown the presence of carageenan in their food to promote tumour development and growth in the colon. In my family, soya allergies are a real problem and the interesting thing is that carageenan triggers a reaction for people with a soya allergy as if they have ingested soy, even if they haven't. Even acacia gum (also known as Arabic Gum), which is used for instance in red wine for clarity and to prevent sedimentation, can trigger a soy allergy response. But more about soy in another post. Back to carageenan.
So because of the soy allergies in our family we learnt the hard way that carageenan is not always declared on the ingredient listings by food manufacturers, although it should be, and that even in small amounts will trigger an allergic response. So what is the take home message on carageenan. Does a lot of controversy and questions hang over this ingredient? Sure. Can we be sure it is as safe as the major role players claim? Is the negative online publicity from bloggers and certain 'health sites' surrounding this product fair and accurate? These are real questions. It can be likened to the whole cancer treatment debate and the pitfalls of money versus health.
Our position on this product is clear, there is just too many unanswered questions and our personal experiences with this product has caused us to keep on the side of caution and avoid it. Our health has tangibly benefited from this decision. Are we telling you to avoid it? I can not do that. What I can assure you is that you will never find it in a product that carries our brand and logo. I think the old wisdom of 'when in doubt, leave it out' is still the safest route. After all, you are responsible for your health. It is not your doctor, grocer, butcher, health store owner, or anyone else's responsibility to take care of your health, it is yours. What you pass between your teeth is an active decision of your own will. The weight you gain from it, the health condition you suffer from as a result of what you eat or how much you eat, or drink, is your decision. It is called freedom and we must not neglect the responsibility that comes with it.
Remember, our children and grandchildren watch what we do and they imitate it. That is how human learning works and how destructive cycles are perpetuated. So when it comes to eating and drinking, set the bar high, be a good example and enjoy the healthy life that comes with it. Life is so precious!