Pet Food Ingredients

Show the Science Carrageenan

Carrageenan is in the news again, and its not good news.  Decades of science is challenging the FDA’s stance on the common human and pet food additive.  The leg the FDA stands on seems to be bought and paid for by industry.

I’d guess 60% to 70% of all canned pet foods include the ingredient carrageenan.  Pet food manufacturers in support of carrageenan tell consumers undegraded carrageenan is safe and confirm this is the type of carrageenan they use.  They explain to inquiring pet food consumers that research shows degraded carrageenan is the risky one, ‘We don’t use degraded carrageenan; we only use undegraded which research has shown is safe.’

But is there any safe carrageenan?  Is there any science – specifically un-biased science – that supports the safety of undegraded carrageenan (as stated by pet food manufacturers)?

In a recent Chicago Tribune article on the safety/risks of carrageenan, the Tribune asked the international trade association representing producers of carrageenan “if they were aware of any peer-reviewed scientific research that supported the safety of carrageenan but wasn’t performed by industry-funded scientists”.  Three weeks later, no such science was produced.

Michael Adams, deputy director of FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety, told the Chicago Tribune a 2006 rat study is the “gold standard” (proving the safety of carrageenan and foundation of FDA stance carrageenan is safe).  Strangely, the deputy director of FDA’s Food Additive Safety Office wasn’t aware (or wasn’t admitting he was aware) that this ‘gold standard’ study was performed by a manufacturer of carrageenan.  Mr. Adams continued to defend the industry’s bought and paid for research stating (please sit down for this…) “it doesn’t matter where the money comes from.”

(Perhaps as a fund raiser for our consumer stakeholder group Association for Truth in Pet Food, we should offer to sell ocean front property in Arizona to FDA.  Seems like they’ll buy anything…wink, wink.)

Carrageenan is a seaweed extract; it provides no nutritional benefit to the pet.  It’s only purpose is to glue a pet food together for a meat loaf type appearance. currently is sponsoring a petition to FDA urging the agency to remove carrageenan from food.  Click Here to read.

If your pet’s canned food contains the ingredient carrageenan, call the manufacturer and ask to see the peer-reviewed science not performed by industry-funded scientists proving the safety of the ingredient.  Let me know what they provide you (or if they ignore you!).

To read more about the pet food ingredient carrageenan, Click Here and/or Here.

Wishing you and your pet(s) the best,

Susan Thixton
Association for Truth in Pet Food
Pet Food Safety Advocate
Author Buyer Beware, Co-Author Dinner PAWsible

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April 8, 2013

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27 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Show the Science Carrageenan”

  1. Heidi says:

    I searched high and low for canned food without carrageenan – or for that matter guar gum, carob bean gum, or whatever other gum they think they need to ‘glue’ canned food together (whatever happened to natural gelatin…). and I found one. Nature’s Variety Instinct, FYI. I asked one manufacturer, Newman’s Own, why it was in their food and was given the following:

    We use un-degraded carrageen in our pet foods. No chemicals are used in
    producing this carrageenan and it is of the highest quality food grade. As
    it is quite expensive, we use a very small amount of it (less than 0.03
    percent including water). It is used to prevent separation of liquids,
    improve performance and add texture that pets enjoy.

    The controversy has arisen because there are two types of carrageenan –
    un-degraded (food-grade) and degraded (hydrolyzed with acid).
    . Un-degraded carrageenan has been used on a huge scale in food
    production worldwide since the 1930s, and its safety has been assured by the
    FDA Gras status. The Joint Expert committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the
    United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World
    Health Organization considers this sea vegetable non-toxic, non teratogenic
    and non-carcinogenic.
    . Chemically treated, degraded carrageenan, however, is a known
    carcinogen (cancer causing agent) and is not used or permitted in food

    PS Stonyfield Organic Yogurt answered the question on carrageenan very well
    on their website and according to research that they hired a scientist for,
    undegraded carrageenan resists degradation in the digestive tract and is
    therefore unlikely to even be absorbed.

    L. Phillips Brown DVM
    Corporate Veterinarian
    Newman’s Own Organics

    • Reader says:

      With all due respect to the discussion and with gratitude for the research in the first place … what is the take away here? That carregeenan is yet another unnecessary addititive to canned pet food that puts our pets at risk? Or that we need to be assured the ingredient is the un-degraded type? Or, that we can’t trust the pet food manufacturers to tell us one way or another? I think the more we read about pet food, the more all these details add up to it not being worth all the headaches. Everytime I fill up my dog’s bowl with whole foods that I can identify and account for, it adds to my peace of mind. Whole food generates a better attitude in my dogs, good weight, better stools, and their teeth are staying cleaner.
      What I’m concerned about is all the careegeenan in human food (especially ice cream and dairy products). If it’s not doing our pets any good, then what’s the purpose of it in our own food??

      • Heidi says:

        IMO yes it is an unnecessary and potentially additive to ‘gum’ the food together – for whose benefit? I don’t trust any pet food manufacturer who uses it not to use the absolute cheapest kind they can buy, do they verify it’s the ‘good kind’ on their can?

        I too am worried about it in every dairy product, even the organic ones and the milk alternatives – there is not one that doesn’t have it. I refuse to buy any of them now, went back to organic cow’s milk, as if that’s even to be trusted.

        • Jan says:

          Regarding the alternative milks, Silk Almond doesn’t contain carrageenan. Also Natura soy milk doesn’t.

    • Lydia says:

      I’ve been using Earthborn canned cat foods and have a cat that has developed intestinal problems. She was doing this and I quite using Earthborn and she got better. Thinking it was not the food, I started using it again and she’s having the same symptoms. I just contacted Earthborn asking them about their use of this ingredient. I’m going to return my unused cats to the retailer immediately. I’ll post whatever I get back from Earthborn.

  2. Leo Wong says:

    Nature’s Logic also appears not to have carrageenan.

  3. Sarah says:

    Not to sound like a dummy, but what are the cons of this additive. I thought seaweed was a good thing.

  4. Jess says:

    Weruva is a good one that doesn’t use it. It’s more of a stew type food. Very high quality.

    • Linda says:

      Careful, some of the Weruva cat food does contain carrageenan. I used to buy the ones w/o it, but only recently my 3 cats won’t touch Weruva or BFF. I’ve switched to Tiki Cat recently. They are still trying to determine which ones they like best. Wish they made it in larger sizes.

      • Katlover says:

        Weruva has come out the a canned version of it’s popular “Cats in the Kitchen” pouch foods. None have carrageenan and they are also low in carbs. (I do not work for them)

    • Lydia says:

      Yes, Weruva removed the ingredient. Unfortunately, my cats won’t eat that as well.

  5. sebs says:

    Lotus doesn’t have carageenan in it either

  6. Lesliek says:

    Anybody ever here of stirring the food before serving ? No additives required !

  7. Yvonne says:

    Evangers canned food do not use Carrageenan. They use Guar gum in their less expensive cans, and some of the more fancy cans do not use any gums.

  8. Ellie says:

    “It doesn’t matter where the money comes from.” It’s sad but there are many uneducated consumers out there that would go along with this shyster. He should not hold a position funded by tax dollars.

  9. Tracey says:

    Merrick started adding it to their food too when they merged with Castor & Pollux. Ruined a good thing.:-(

  10. Elaine says:

    Tiki Cat, Fromm, and Life’s Abundance Instinctive Choice (the last one is mail order only) also don’t use carrageenan. It’s a short list unfortunately. I noticed Life’s Abundance does use guar gum though. Does anybody know any issues with guar gum?

  11. Cali says:

    There may be more things than this that guar gum does, but the one I read in research is the fact that it coats the intestinal lining with a gooey substance that prevents absorption of some nutrients, and interferes with beneficial gut flora and changes the way food is processed along the gut by slowing it in the wrong
    way (stickiness from gum).

  12. Kathy Thomas says:

    My female cat was losing weight (almost 1 lb) and fur. The blood work came back normal. I found one “Blue” flavor that didn’t have carageenan and she started eating better, gained the weight back and her fur is growing back in. All my cats are now on a raw food diet that I prepare myself and they are all thriving!!!

  13. Sher Schwartz says:

    Hello Everyone:
    I have also had some concern about carrageenan, and have found few pet food companies that do not use it. Both Spot’s Stew for dogs and Instinct for dogs in the can – do not use carrageenan. I spoke with a representative at Instinct, and he said it is the company’s philosophy to not use binders (carrageenan), and to try and use most if not all ingredients that are in their purest form that people can recognize. I have switched to Instinct for my high energy pointing dogs. One has had jaw cancer and had a successful surgery; I would like to limit her exposure to non-whole food items.

    I did call Spot’s Stew (Halo) but have not heard back from them yet.

    Sher in Oregon

  14. DoggieMom says:

    What you won’t find listed on bags or cans of Nature’s Variety Instinct is the fact that some of the meats (as just one example, rabbit) in their dog foods ARE SOURCED FROM CHINA. I had a long conversation with someone at the company who told me this after I kept asking questions. She told me the meat in their raw and either the kibble or the canned (can’t remember which one) was sourced from China. I personally do not want anything sourced from China, and it’s interesting that they don’t have to disclose this.

    If you want to know what is really in these foods, you are better off calling the companies and asking probing questions, rather than trusting anything you read on the internet.

    • Hello DoggieMom– thanks for your information about the ingredients in Nature’s Variety. I just placed a call to them.

      My fear with this company has been that the food would become too popular and quality would begin to waiver. Last year I called the company to discuss carageenan, and the phone was answered right away by someone who worked at the company. Now, they have gone to an answering service– perhaps too many calls, nowadays, to handle.

      The label on the canned Nature’s Variety Instinct says made in US, so I will enjoy finding out exactly what that means. Sher

    • Hi All-
      I did get Nature’s Variety on the phone the following day, and though it seemed like they had gone to a message service, it was just their voicemail.

      Up until last year their rabbit was sources from China. Now it is sources from France. Non of any of the other proteins such as beef or chicken, or duck come from China. When you see made in US on their cans of dog food, it means everything inside the can comes from the US.

      Please call Nature’s Variety directly to get the facts as they are now:
      I was indeed nervous that maybe their quality had slipped, because they were getting too big, but I came away from the phone call feeling that is not the case at this time. I will continue to buy this expensive, but quality food for my three high performance working dogs.

      Thanks for bringing my attention to the possibility of a problem; I am glad I spoke with Nature’s Variety once again.

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Susan Thixton's author is a founding partner of the international pet food consumer association - Association for Truth in Pet Food. Through our consumer association, Susan has advisory position to AAFCO's Pet Food Committee and Ingredient Definitions Committee.