The carrageenan controversy was brought into the limelight in April 2012 when Dr. Joanne Tobacman, a physician-scientist at the University of Illinois, Chicago, appealed to the National Organic Standards Board in Washington D.C. to reconsider the 1958 Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status of carrageenan based on her work with both high-molecular-weight (food grade) and degraded carrageenans in more than 18 peer-review papers.
expressed significant concern that carrageenan at various molecular weights and degraded carrageenan were potentially harmful to the body.
reported that she
used small amounts of high-molecular-weight carrageenan in her
experiments and it induced inflammation via three major pathways.
One of these pathways of inflammation is similar to a pathway activated by the pathogenic bacteria Salmonella and may lead to long-term inflammatory effects.
Additional experiments with lower-molecular-weight carrageenan demonstrated its extra-colonic effects and potential relationship to diabetes when laboratory mice developed glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action.
In response to Dr. Tobacman's
appeal, the FDA
issued a denial letter with the decision to keep carrageenan's GRAS status.
A. It clearly has to be attributed to the research of Dr. Joanne Tobacman, an Associate Prof at the University of Illinois in Chicago.
She and a group of molecular biologists have accused carrageenan of being a potential inflammatory agent as a conclusion from laboratory experiments with cells of the digestive tract.
It requires a lot of unproven assumptions to even suggest that consumption of carrageenan in the human diet causes inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract.
The objectivity of the Chicago research is also flawed by the fact that Dr Tobacman
has tried to have carrageenan declared an unsafe food additive on weak technical arguments that she
broadcast widely a decade before the University of Chicago research began.
On June 11th, 2008, Dr. Joanne Tobacman
petitioned the FDA
to revoke the current regulations permitting use of carrageenan as a food additive.
On June 11th, 2012 the FDA
petition, categorically addressing and ultimately dismissing all of her
claims; their rebuttal supported by the results of several in-depth, scientific studies.