Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Carrageenan: Response. (Correspondence)

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Carrageenan: Response. (Correspondence)

Article excerpt

It is difficult to recognize a wolf in sheep's clothing. This seems to be the situation with regard to carrageenan.

In response to a letter to EHP from Phil Carthew, I commented on some of the data used for the recent Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) review to which Kirsch refers (1,2). I found the JECFA conclusions disconcerting in view of the available evidence. Previously, the JECFA considered modification of their recommendation about carrageenan to include a minimum average molecular weight (3,4).

Extensive experimental data have demonstrated that a) degraded carrageenan produces neoplasms and ulcerations in animal models; b) acid hydrolysis, such as occurs in the stomach, leads to the production of degraded carrageenan from food-grade carrageenan; and c) food-grade carrageenan contains significant amounts of degraded carrageenan. Human consumption of carrageenan has been increasing steadily in the United States in the 20th century (5-8).

The data with regard to intestinal effects of carrageenan seem sufficient to mandate restriction of carrageenan intake. I remain hopeful that the Food and Drug Administration and the JECFA will revise their recommendations pertaining to the safe use of carrageenan, that industry will substitute other gums for carrageenan, that red seaweed farmers will diversify, and that consumers will select food products without carrageenan. …

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