Carrageenan, or CGN, is a common additive that acts as an emulsifier in many common foods such as ice cream, cottage cheese, and soymilk. CGN consists of polysaccharides extracted from red seaweed. There have been studies in the past that have brought concern about the safety of carrageenan as an additive. The possible problems that have been correlated to CGN include activating inflammatory signaling in the intestines, inhibit insulin signaling pathways in the liver, and cause toxicity in cells.1 More recent research has shown that the original results finding CGN harmful are not reproducible and are in direct conflict with other research. Therefore, the negative claims against CGN should be looked at with caution.
The original concerns of carrageenan caused many consumers to attempt to stay away from the ingredient. Conversely, the recent alterations in the concerns have not played a major role in having these consumers start buying products containing CGN once more. In order to gain more consumers of the product, manufacturers using CGN have stated that carrageenan has a number of different benefits including “a healthy, diverse, and sustainable food supply.”2
Carageenan is considered to be a safe food additive that is important to the composition of many different products on our shelves today. In the most recent study, researchers wanted to know more about any possible concerns found in the original study. The concerns were proven to be not reproducible. This leads other researchers to wonder if something went wrong in the initial study that brought about these safety concerns. At this point, carrageenan will continue to be used in foods in order to keep a consistent texture and composition. While safety concerns should not be dismissed, they should not keep anyone from consuming this additive that is considered common in the United States.
- McKim J, et al. Effects of carrageenan on cell permeability, cytotoxicity, and cytokine gene expression in human intestinal and hepatic cell lines. Elsevier. 2016;96:1-10. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/s0278691516302265. Accessed October 19, 2016.
- Crawford E. New research tackles carrageenan safety concerns. foodnavigator-usa. http://mobile.foodnavigator-usa.com/manufacturers/new-research-tackles-carrageenan-safety-concerns. Published August 25, 2016. Accessed October 19, 2016.