An additive, Carrageenan, to substitute for fat increases cancers of the colon. The safety of a food additive used since 1932 has been questioned. For centuries, carrageenan has been used in food products and was patented as a food additive for use in the United States in the 1930s.

Carrageenan is a carbohydrate extract composed of sulfated galactose units from a number of seaweeds of the class Rhodophyceae . It is a naturally sourced material with little taste or odor, and has a long history of safe use in food products.

The predominant role of carrageenan today is its ability to substitute for fat. It combines easily with milk proteins to increase solubility and improve texture.

Carrageenan is used widely by the food industry in relatively minor quantities to help with stabilizing thickening and texturizing processed food. It is often used to thicken and improve the texture of foods such as yogurt, salad dressings, infant formulas, and soymilk.

It has been used as an ingredient in pharmaceuticals and personal care products, such as toothpaste and cosmetics.


In 2001 and August 2008, Joanne Tobacman from the University of Iowa, concluded from animal studies that carrageenan may be associated with the formation of ulcers and tumors in the gastrointestinal tract and it should be removed from the western diet.


Preliminary in vitro studies suggest that carrageenan may have anti-viral properties. Regular inclusion of carrageenan in the diet may result in reducing significantly serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels, according to a recent Philippine study.

Food-grade carrageenan has no known toxicity or carcinogenicity and is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA in 1972 considered restricting the molecular weight to > 100,000, but did not pass that restriction.

Arguments against the study by Tobacman were given as:
The difference in intestinal bacterial strains between animals and humans may play a significant role in how dietary carrageenan is metabolized.

Carrageenan in food comes in a different form than the form used in the animal studies and they may not apply to humans. Food additives are subject to periodic review and the safety of carrageenan was confirmed most recently on June 2001.

Authorities worldwide such as JECFA, Scientific Community on Food (SCF), and International Food Additives Council (IFAC) has extensively evaluated the safety of carrageenan.


The studies in 2001 and Tobacman’s current studies conclude that cancers of the colon may occur because of the use of this additive. Her studies bear evaluation by the FDA.

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