PHILADELPHIA, April 14, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is currently conducting a review of nonorganic substances that are allowed as ingredients for use in U.S. organic foods. One of those substances under review is carrageenan, often identified as Irish Moss. Food Science Matters is requesting your attention to this matter.
Carrageenan is a derivative of the same red seaweed that has been used as a thickener or stabilizer in foods for centuries.
As part of a prolonged campaign, an organic interest group and a lone research scientist have promoted a combination of suspect science and consumer fear in advance of the NOSB review.
Unfortunately, we're often more interested in stories about common food ingredients that someone says will harm us, which is what these groups have been trumpeting. These claims have been consistently debunked by legitimate research and have been thoroughly reviewed and rejected by regulatory agencies around the world. The scientific evidence confirming the safety of carrageenan has existed for decades. Moreover, within the past few years and as recently as 2015, new studies and additional reviews and papers have once again proved its safety.
For example, The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, one of the most independent and respected review panels in the world, thoroughly reviewed carrageenan science from both sides and found carrageenan to be of 'no concern' even in infant formula.
As part of its sunset review the NOSB considered a panel discussion as to the safety of carrageenan. Research scientists and toxicologists were eager to participate in such a panel. Carrageenan's primary detractor declined the offer.
Far too often food stories covering carrageenan fail to follow the lead of science reporters. Instead, they have been susceptible to fear-mongering when two or three clicks of a mouse could easily lead them to a balanced view of an additive consumed by millions of us every day.
The world's foremost toxicology journals, independent review panels and global regulatory authorities all affirm that studies supporting carrageenan's safety are the most credible.
Carrageenan, as it is used in our food and drinks, passes through us without ever being absorbed, for example, into the bloodstream. Numerous animal studies have shown that 90 percent to 98 percent of carrageenan is recovered after ingestion (the remainder has been described in studies as 'toxicologically insignificant' or not harmful).
Cellular, or in vitro studies, have been conducted alleging harmful effects of carrageenan on things like human breast cells or other organs and areas of the body that carrageenan simply cannot reach.
Some of the flawed research even used cells that were subsequently found to be defective by the company that provided them.
You could also say that carrageenan turns into something else at certain temperatures or acidic conditions. That's only partly true, but that's not the product found in food. The only way you could turn carrageenan into something else in your own body is if your stomach acid has a pH similar to battery acid, or if your body temperature is around 176 degrees. If that's the case, you'd be in trouble no matter what you eat.
While it's tempting to remind journalists of their commitment to the truth, we suggest only that before any food ingredient or food additive is linked to devastating diseases like cancer that a little homework is in order.
We would suggest the following resources on the safety of carrageenan:
Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee On Food Additives, Summary report of the seventy-ninth meeting of JECFA. 2 July 2014
Myra L. Weiner, Parameters and pitfalls to consider in the conduct of food additive research, Carrageenan as a case study January 2016 Food and Chemical Toxicology
James M. McKim, Food additive carrageenan: Part I: A critical review of carrageenan in vitro studies, potential pitfalls, and implications for human health and safety. Critical Reviews in Toxicology
Myra L. Weiner, Food additive carrageenan: Part II: A critical review of carrageenan in vivo safety studies. Critical Reviews in Toxicology
Henry C. McGill Jr., C. Alex McMahan, Herman S. Wigodsky, HelmuthSprinz, Carrageenan in Formula and Infant Baboon Development. American Gastroenterological Association
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SOURCE Food Science Matters