Essential Formulas Incorporated is of the opinion the use of food grade carrageenan is safe and acts as an effective material for “a smooth mouth feel.”  Please feel assured you and yours may continue to consume Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics with peace of mind.

Let me take a few lines to comment about high quality, food grade carrageenan.  Carrageenan is a natural polysaccharide (carbohydrate) extracted from red seaweed. It is referred to as a seaweed gelatin much like agar agar. Its name is derived from the Chondrus crispus species of seaweed known as Irish Moss or Carrageen Moss in England, and as Carraigin in Ireland, where it has been used since 400 AD. The name Carraigin means ‘moss of the rock’ in Irish. It grows abundantly along the rocky coasts of North America and Europe.

In Ireland during the early 1800s carrageenan was extracted from Irish Moss and used as a gelatin and thickener, as well as a home remedy. A tea made from Irish moss is used as a tonic, being widely used in Irish folk medicine as a trusted cure for coughs and colds.

Today, Ireland is a major source of the world’s supply and where this vegetable is steamed and eaten with potatoes or cabbage. Its most common use outside of Ireland is in the making of rennet-free gelatin (carrageen), preferred by vegetarians since true gelatin is an animal product.

The carrageenan used in Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics is extracted using a multi-step process to avoid any degradation either by boiling the seaweed in water and freeze-drying it, or by precipitation with alcohol and then concentrating it by evaporation. Carrageenan is used as a thickening, emulsifying and stabilizing agent in ice cream, yogurt, custards, jellies, cream cheese, cottage cheese and other dairy products as well as chocolate products, pie fillings, salad dressings, soups, soymilk, and as a fat substitute in processed meats, and in toothpaste to mention just a few.

There are two types of carrageenan, undegraded (food-grade) and degraded (hydrolyzed with acid). Undegraded 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 (WHO) gave carrageenan the highest ADI (Accepted Daily Intake) status of ‘not specified’. Since it’s considered non-toxic the JECFA deemed it unnecessary to express the ADI in numerical form.

Chemically treated, degraded carrageenan however, is a known carcinogen (cancer causing agent) and is not used or permitted in food production, but is frequently used to experimentally induce intestinal inflammation in animal studies.

The safety of carrageenan for use in foods was confirmed at the fifty-seventh meeting of the Joint FAO/WHO in June 200l. The JECFA recommended an ADI of ‘not specified’, the most favorable ADI a food additive can get.

The JECFA consists of an international panel of expert toxicologists that review data pertaining to food additives and contaminates. At the request of a meeting of the JECFA June 200l, Samuel Cohen M.D., Ph.D. (Chairman of the Department of Pathology/Microbiology from the Medical School University of Nebraska) and Dr. Nobuyuki Ito (Professor Emeritus from Nagoya City University Medical School, Japan) performed a literature review and prepared a response on the safety of carrageenan. In June 2001, the JECFA reviewed the response on the matter of carrageenan written by the above and removed the ‘temporary’ designation of ADI and designated carrageenan as a food ‘not specified’, ADI. This is the best classification from a toxicology perspective. It means that there is no numerical limit established on the consumption of food grade carrageenan when used in food at a level to achieve the desired technical or functional effect.

A seven and one-half year study conducted on monkeys fed carrageenan, at the Albany Medical College, Albany, N.Y. found no changes in hematology or clinical chemistry values, no changes in organ weight or organ-to-body ratios, no storage of carrageenan-like material in the liver or other organs, and no gross microscopic changes in tissue. This study and the JECFA position was further supported by the recent publication of a Japanese study (J. Toxico Pathol., 14(1), 37-43, 2001), that found carrageenan does not promote tumor growth.

It is the goal of Essential Formulas Incorporated (EFI) to provide the highest quality dietary supplements, and to disseminate accurate information about these products, their uses and benefits. After reviewing all of the existing scientific literature, EFI is in agreement with the JECFA assessment of carrageenan. The literature indicates that food grade carrageenan is neither carcinogenic nor toxic, and it is safe for all uses.

Please visit the following web sites to review scientific literature, the JECFA position, and to help you arrive at your own determination regarding the safety of carrageenan:

IPCS International Programme on Chemical Safety, World Health Organization, WHO Food Additives Series: 42

Marinalg International, a world association representing the producers of hydrocolloids extracted from seaweeds