Although it is a little bit of a challenge to find a canned dog food or cat food without the ingredient carrageenan, when you read the research done on this ingredient, you’ll probably feel the search for a carrageenan free pet food is worth the effort.
Right now – the end of May 2012 – the National Organic Standards Board will be deciding on whether to continue to allow carrageenan as an approved ingredient in organic foods (human as well as animal foods). Supporters of carrageenan argue it is a ‘natural’ ingredient sourced from seaweed. However significant research has found carrageenan to be far from ‘natural’ and has linked the ingredient to serious health concerns. states “The International Agency for Research on Cancer recognizes degraded carrageenan as a “possible human carcinogen,” based on research showing that it leads to higher rates of colon cancer in lab animals. There are two kinds of carrageenan – degraded and undegraded. Carrageenan processors claim that food-grade carrageenan falls entirely in the undegraded category; however, a 2005 study showed that not a single sample of food-grade carrageenan could confidently claim to be entirely free of the potential cancer-causing material.”

Science has determined that ‘degraded carrageenan’ poses the most risk, yet undegraded carrageenan or food grade carrageenan poses similar risks as well. With the FDA allowance of other wastes into pet foods – non (human) food grade ingredients such as by-product meal and animal fat – for starters we have to question whether pet food manufacturers using carrageenan are using food grade or the riskiest degraded (non food grade) carrageenan.

But, if we give pet food manufacturers the benefit of the doubt and assume they use food grade carrageenan, the risks are still high. In the paper titled “Carrageenan-Induced Innate Immune Response is Modified by Enzymes that Hydrolyze Distinct Galactosidic Bonds” the first sentence in the abstract says it all…”The common food additive carrageenan predictably induces intestinal inflammation in animal models.” Of huge significance, this paper also states that Carrageenan (CGN) “has been used for decades, to induce inflammation” in laboratory animals to study the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory medications.

A more recent paper published found that the exposure to carrageenan may compromise the effectiveness of treatments, even the body’s own natural defenses for disease. The 2010 paper “Tumor Necrosis factor alpha-induced inflammation is increased but apoptosis is inhibited by common food additive carrageenan” found that carrageenan increased inflammation instead of the body’s normal response of infected/sick cell death. “These findings demonstrate that exposure to CGN (carrageenan) drives TNF-α-stimulated cells toward inflammation rather than toward apoptotic cell death and suggest that CGN exposure may compromise the effectiveness of anti-TNF-α therapy.” In other words, this study found exposure to carrageenan causes infected cells to inflame rather than to die as part of the body’s natural healing process.

There is too much science to prove that carrageenan is of no benefit for use in pet foods. Take the time to scan the ingredients in your canned foods to look for the ingredient carrageenan — Just Don’t Do It.