Carrageenan is an extract of seaweed that has been used as a food additive for hundreds of years. It is widely used in the pet food industry, especially in wet foods, as a gelling, thickening, and stabilising agent. Despite its widespread use and long heritage, though, carrageenan is cited by many as one of the most potentially problematic additives out there.
A whole host of studies have linked food grade carrageenan (also known as un-degraded carrageenan or just CGN) to gastrointestinal inflammation as well as higher rates of intestinal lesions, ulcerations, and even malignant tumours. Degraded carrageenan (dCGN), though, is far more potent. It is a widely recognised carcinogen and is routinely used to induce inflammation in lab animals so that scientists can test anti-inflammation drugs. There is some concern that the acid environment of the stomach may degrade food-grade carrageenan to form dCGN.
While food grade carrageenan is still permitted as a food additive for both animal and human consumption, it has been banned from infant formula in the EU for precautionary reasons.
As far as we're concerned, the pros of carrageenan could never outweigh the potential cons so we recommend giving it a wide berth.
Find foods containing Carrageenan See the full Ingredient Glossary