On Thursday, November 17, 2016, the National Organics Standard Board (NOSB) declared that carrageenan would no longer be allowed in food products labeled "USDA Organic". The board voted 10-3 with one abstention after a 3 day meeting in their headquarters in St. Louis.
There may be many of thinking, "Great! But what IS carrageenan?". It seems to be one of those ubiquitous ingredients that shows up in many foods, even those found at your local health food store, making you believe that it was a "health food' and therefore okay to eat.
Carrageenan, also known as Irish Moss, has been derived through red algae since the 1930s. It is used as a thickener and stabilizer, and therefore helps lengthen a products shelf life. It is used in many products, including ice cream, yogurts, non-dairy milks, dressings, tofu, toothpaste and many others.
Some of the side effects of carrageenan include inflammation, which can lead to a host of ailments like intestinal distress, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and many others. Remember, all disease stems from inflammation. Interesting enough, in the medical field it is actually used as a laxative!
Unfortunately, it is not always listed on the label. If the food producer is using carrageenan as a "processing aid" it is not required to be listed. It is also used in beer making to clarify beer, but is not required to be on the label.
So, learn to read your labels and educate yourself on which products might hiding this ingredient if you are concerned or are having issues and think that this might be the culprit. Cornucopia.com has a wonderful page explaining carrageenan in more detail. Check it out here.
Here's to your health.
Anne Temple, MAA