Carrageenan in store-bought milk

If you buy {cow, coconut, rice, almond, soy} milk from the grocery store, you may be purchasing a product with a potential carcinogen in it: carrageenan. Oh, you buy organic? Well it still might be in there.

Carrageenan is a substance that is extracted from red seaweed (so naturally-derived) and widely used in the food industry for its thickening and stabilizing properties. It is most commonly used in milk and milk products including non-dairy milk alternatives such as coconut, rice, soy, and almond milk.


Carrageenan is one of the additives that has been ushered through the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) technical review process in the scandal that has been referred to as the “Organic Watergate.” In essence, it really should not have been approved for use in organic food (or any food!) but due to corporate pressure, now appears in many brands of “organic” as well as non-organic milk and milk-alternative products.

So why shouldn’t carrageenan be in our food? As much as 25% of the carregeenan on the market is characterized as “degraded.” Furthermore, all carrageenan can degrade in the body, in the gastrointestinal tract and liver, where it causes serious inflammation and intestinal abnormalities. These side effects are well-known among the scientific community as carrageenan is given to lab animals to produce inflammatory symptoms in order to test anti-inflammatory drugs. What’s more, degraded carrageenan is also a potential carcinogen. In fact, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Research Council of the United States have deemed carrageenan to be a carcinogen.

What can you do? If you are a cow milk drinker, the best option is buying raw milk from a local farmer you trust and who does not use hormones or antibiotics. Living in the city, I get my raw milk from a local co-op that gets a bi-weekly shipment from Lancaster, PA. If you prefer non-dairy alternatives, consider making your own almond milk (click here to get the recipe) or coconut milk (click here to get the recipe). Otherwise, check out Cornucopia Institute’s Shopping Guide to Avoiding Organic Foods with Carrageenan to find a store-bight milk without carrageenan.

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Source: Cornucopia Institute.