Does Your Coconut or Almond Milk Contain a Known Carcinogen? Mine Does.

almond-breezeWith multiple milk sensitivities in our house, almond milk and coconut milk have become staples in our fridge.

I used to make almond milk from scratch, but recently starting buying the almond/coconut milk combo from Blue Diamond.

It’s convenient, tastes good and saves time. But is it harming my family’s health?

According to a new report – yes.

Before I get into it, if you’re drinking any sort of milk substitute, go grab it and look for this ingredient: Carrageenan.

Did you find it? I did!

carrageenenCarrageenan is a common ingredient in the majority of milk substitutes, baby formulas, cottage cheese and, sadly, even some flavored coconut waters. It’s used as a stabilizer and/or emulsifier.  And it doesn’t even matter if the product is USDA certified organic. Sigh.

I’ve seen Carrageenan over and over as an ingredient listed in packaged foods the last few years. I always thought it was a soy derivative so I’ve tried to avoid it, but not as aggressively as I should have.

Carrageenan is actually derived from red seaweed, so I totally had its source wrong. But my gut was right in telling me something just wasn’t okay with consuming it.

Recently, the Cornucopia Institute released a Video as well as a PDF Report outlining some upsetting practices between the USDA and NOSA (National Organic Standards Board (the agency regulating organic food)).

One of the most troubling issues involves an ingredient that has been deemed carcinogenic. Yep, you guess it, Carrageenan.

There are 2 “classes” of Carrageenan: food safe and approved (aka undergraded) and non-approved or non-food-safe (aka degraded). I’ll just call them food safe and non-food safe from here on out to make it clear which version I’m talking about (degraded and undegraded is just too confusing to keep straight).

There has been plenty of published, peer-reviews literature in the scientific community for decades showing that non-food-safe carrageenan is inflammatory and carcinogenic in lab animals.  In fact, non-food safe carrageenan was listed as a “possible human carcinogen” by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in 1983.

In addition, non-food-grade carrageenan has been shown to cause inflammation in rodents’ colons resembling ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

While it is well established that non-food-safe carrageenan is harmful, there have also been concerns with food-grade carrageenan dating back to the late 1970s! In fact, there are studies (including industry-funded studies) showing food-grade carrageenan is also linked to colon inflammation and colon cancer in animals. How did I not know this?

Additionally, some studies are reporting that “food-grade” carrageenan can degrade in the gastrointestinal tract to the same molecular weight/structure and non-food-grade carrageenan.

On top of that, when the industry tested food-grade carrageenan for the presence of non-food-grade carrageenan, every sample had at least some non-food grade carrageenen in it. Some samples had as much as 25% non-food-grade carrageenan.

Like I said, it doesn’t matter whether the product is organic or not (Carrageenan was approved for use in organics in 1995 and reapproved in 2008).

It just seems like there is too much controversy around carrageenen, and too much risk that it could cause colon inflammation and colon cancer. I will be steering clear of carrageenan starting now.

It’s not going to be easy though. It’s in a lot of products. This blog post over at Food Babe did a good job at outlining the major brands that use Carrageenan:

  • Blue Diamond
  • Carnation
  • Horizon
  • Pacific
  • Silk (Silk Unsweetened Almond Milk does not have it)
  • So Delicious
  • Starbucks
  • Tempt
  • Zico

Are you using any of the brands on this list? I know we are using a few of them! On my next shopping trip, I’ll be reading labels closely to see if I can make some recommendations of safer brands.

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Comments

  1. says

    So especially frustrating that it is approved for use in organic products. Just when we think we’re doing something safer/healthier for our kids…

    I just checked a couple of products in our house. Fred Meyer brand cottage cheese and Kirkland Brand (from Costco) Organic Soy milk both list Carrageenan as an ingredient. Boo.
    Erin N recently posted..Go Green Get Fit Challenge

    • Stephanie says

      Erin, it may be a blessing in disguise for you because unfermented soy (organic or not) is actually not healthy at all.

      • says

        Stephanie – you’re absolutely right! We have made so many healthy changes and giving up my soy milk was one I just hadn’t been willing to do yet. But this pushed me over the edge and it is officially out of our house.
        Erin N recently posted..Go Green Get Fit Challenge

      • Jess says

        Saying that any unfermented soy is unhealthy is an false, blanket statement. Yes, there are tons of unhealthy processed soy products out there, but eating soy in and of itself is perfectly healthy. I am pretty sure the Japanese have been doing for thousands of years, and this includes fermented soy and non-fermented soy. Just please watch the overreaching statements of opinion and not fact.

        • Missie says

          Well, seeing how Monsanto owns soy,it is NOT healthy AT ALL! Monsanto will have us all dying of cancer soon enough. I avoid all soy products. Saying that the Japanese have been using soy products for thousands of years really has nothing to do with the fact that Monsanto has ruined most products for us. It is becoming very hard to eat healthy and with out GMO products. Farmers markets are the way to go, but having to know what those farmers use and not use is tricky. You dont want to be buying from a local farmer that may have used any of Monsantos “organic” anything, or their neighbor had used something that would affect their crops…. This Monsanto thing is getting ridiculous and they need to STOP what they are doing. We need to BAN MONSTANTO,

        • Alicia says

          Come on!
          You are comparing two completely different cultures here! The US is known for their corrupted generated mass productive companies that will do anything-including put the good citizens of America in danger-for a major profit. The Japanese on the other hand, have implemented the Soybean Trust Movement since 2004, a trust that protests against GMO soybean crops. My point is the soy based products here in the US are known to be particularly dangerous to consume because the risk of eating GM soy is much greater than in Japan. Ever heard of MONSANTO??

        • christa says

          jess, yes the Japanese have been eating soy for thousands of years, but originally Buddhist monks used soy to lessen their drive to help them meditate. it makes one more docile and less sexual. sure there is lots of vitamin e but there is as much estrogen in a cup of soy milk as a birth control pill. its not exactly the same estrogen so you can’t substitute it for birth control just encase you were wondering. the only people that could benefit from the extra estrogen are women over 50.

        • says

          Jess is absolutely right! Many things affect the quality and allergenicity of soy from the bean to the ground is grown in, to what’s grown in neighboring fields, to how it is handled in processing, what health promoting elements have been washed out during processing (lunasin for example) and even how it’s packaged. High quality, organic, non GMO soy is a powerhouse of nutrition!

  2. Misty Leask says

    Ugh. My coconut milk has it. My soy milk has it. Once again back to the drawing board. :( Thanks for the info Chrystal though.

    • says

      You’re welcome Misty. The other problem with these beverages is that they contain synthetic vitamins (which are often derived from petroleum), which makes them a bad choice there too.

      • Alex says

        Yea, I my silk unsweetened almond milk doesn’t have the ingredient in this article, but it contains synthetic vitamins. Whats the point!? Silk, I’ll get my vitamins from their true sources, thank you.

    • Suzanne Moraz says

      Try Aroy-D coconut milk. No carrageenan and they sell it at Amazon in small 6 packs or the larger containers.

      • November says

        Chrystal,
        As kids, my younger brother had milk allergies. The whole family switched to goats milk. My father then tested positive for TB! Apparently goats milk will cause a positive TB result -even if you don’t have it (he was the only one being tested though). It was a mess for him as a government employee.
        Just wanted to warn you :)
        November

          • says

            The casein in goat’s milk is A2 whereas the one in Cow’s milk is A1. Human breastmilk contains A2 as do all other mammals. Certain breeds of cow underwent a genetic mutation 5oo0 years ago that created this indigestible A1 protein and it is now present in almost all cow dairy. I just read “the devil in the milk” and it explains all of this in great scientific detail if you are interested.

      • Brian says

        We love the 365 Almond milk, but now the problem is that A) Whole Foods has gotten into bed with Monsanto, and B) they have “temporarily suspended production of the almond milks” for some unknown reason. So I would be very mindful of any 365 products now :( We may find that they require a full boycott on our part. We shall see.

        By the way, these apps for Iphone and Android is very helpful… Buycott and Fooducate. Check them out!

          • tim says

            Dairy milk also contains fortified vitamins. The pasteurization process removes a lot of the vitamin content, so they have to fortify with synthetics. You should be more worried about the casein content in cow’s milk. I buy Simple Truth Almond Milk from Kroger. It is carageenan free. Silk has now removed it from their almond milk as well.

          • Kate says

            Response to Tim (couldn’t reply directly for some reason) – raw milk does not contain fortified vitamins, and is not pasteurized.

  3. Denise C says

    I don’t really use any of those products, but I know I’ve seen carrageenan in other ingredients listings before. Is there anything out there that is actually safe to eat? It doesn’t seem like it.

  4. Mandana says

    I have a neat appliance called SoyQuick and you don’t have to use soy – you pick the nut or bean you want to make your beverage from. It can also make tofu. Anyway, it’s one way around these problems!

  5. says

    Just wanted to share a couple of other products that I found Carrageenan in today:

    Horizon Organic Milk (the kind in the little Tetra Paks)
    Ah!laska Organic Cocoa

    Cocoa that does not have it: Equal Exchange

    Will post more brands as I come across them. Thank you again for shedding light on this!
    Erin N recently posted..Go Green Get Fit Challenge

  6. says

    Thanks for this info! I always wondered about carageenan…
    The Whole Foods 365 brand makes organic almond milk. No carageenan!
    I’m sad to see that my Trader Joe’s coconut milk in a box does have it, though. I will see if 365 makes coconut milk in boxes. I like to avoid cans.
    Jillian recently posted..The Sitch In The Kitch

  7. says

    I have tried to avoid carageenan due to it’s being an allergen to may allergic prone son. I find that it is added to everything that has calcium and vitamin d. I really don’t like that. Now that I have read your post I am even more reluctant to let my son consume it. We use trader joe’s organic soy milk and it has it as well.
    Christine @ Mama Papa Barn recently posted..Win a Giftcard to ThanksMama for #clothdiapers and More, Worldwide

    • Marky says

      Oh, I think we are all aware of the present (lousy) situation of global security, whether it’s political, nutritional, agricultural, economic or otherwise. If not, where have you been?

      The UN is bound and determined to implement its horrid Agenda 21 program which promoted Monsanto to begin its use of GMO products. Plastics, BTA, additives, etc. will all kill the human race, balancing the world through depopulation. The UK’s Prince Philip is a BIG proponent of this as well as the Rockefellers and many, many others of the world’s elite. They, along with the UN, will make certain that the population drops significantly in the next twenty-five years.

      The only thing you really can do is either eat and drink the toxic swill or form a co-op with people you know and trust to plant non-GMO fruits and vegetables, buy dairy from KNOWN and TESTED organic dairy farms and make your own products. Plant a garden or buy true organics. Can and preserve them. Get used to eating less and less because when the whip comes down, your garden and friendly organic dairy may be outlawed. Do the very best you can; your family and your lives will depend on this one day soon.

      It’s a helluva thing to have to face but it’s all true. Don’t believe it? Do some research and you soon will.

      No one believed there would be Ebola and E68 Enterovirus that kills children in this day, so take your chances if you wish.

      At any rate, Godspeed to us all and very good luck.

    • says

      I believe that is the one version of the silk almond milk that doesn’t contain carageenan. The unsweetened vanilla almond milk does have it, however.

    • Johnson says

      Do not buy Silk products as they put a lot of money againstthe Cali label law that was shot down. They are NOT to be trusted!!!

      • Marina says

        Thank you for sharing that Johnson! It is true, I remember reading about that through OCA….SILK PRODUCTS ARE A TRAITOR BRAND WHO DID INVEST FUNDS TO FIGHT THE CALIFORNIA GMO LABELING LAW….NO, THEY ARE NOT TO BE TRUSTED! THANKS FOR THE REMINDER!!!

  8. Kaila says

    I just looked at my Silk vanilla almond milk and it doesn’t have it listed but my Blue Diamond Vanilla did.

    • Scott C says

      Why does Almond Breeze® contain Carageenan?

      Carrageenan is used to stabilize Almond Breeze. It is naturally extracted from seaweed and approved for use in foods as an emulsifier and thickener. The Carrageenan that is used in the Almond Breeze formula is not to be confused with the degraded version that is chemically different and used solely for industrial applications.

  9. Danielle says

    I use TJ’s brand coconut milk and it has it and my son eats so delicious coconut yogurt which has it too. We are both allergic to almonds so can’t do that. I have never seen any other coconut yogurts out there?? Any suggestions?

    • says

      And now the concern for arsenic levels in rice has presented itself and thus back to the board for a milk product. We’ve been using rice milk from TJ’s for well over one year and close to two. I’m terrified of what I may have done to my precious boys.

  10. Tonia Miller says

    If you have a Sprouts near you, their brand of Almond milk does not have Carrageenan in it. Yay! And in San Diego, they are 2 for $5 right now! I just stocked up! :-)

  11. Nicole says

    The Silk Vanilla Unsweetened Almond does not have carageenan. Has anyone heard anything about Vitamin A Palmitate being bad for you? Even the Vitamin D2 they add can be bad too?

  12. Tina Kelly says

    Hi I just some silk chocolate milk it does not contain carragen. It has locust bean gum which I hope is safe and Gellan Gum which seem to be two thickeners.

    I found this article about Gellan Gum and thought to share. I am trying to find a safe alternative to milk for my 5 year old and she seems to like the Almond Milks and Soy Milks because she does not like dairy milk at all. I feel like eveytime I choose something even it if is organic or GMO free there is something else wrong with it… Very frustrationg..

    http://macnmos.com/2012/01/fun-gum-guar-gellan-and-ask-the-dietitian-friday/

      • JR says

        You should not support the Silk brand. They spent over $250,000.00 to help squash the Prop 37 campaign in California to help label GMO’s.

        • says

          That is a very good point JR. I do like that their almond milk is non-GMO project verified, but I am disappointed that they supported No on Prop 37. Another push to get back to making it from scratch.

          • Darla says

            Thank you JR for sharing-very insightful.
            You mentioned Crystal that Silks almond milk is non-GMO project verified….why on earth then would they pay $250,000 to help squash the prop 37 campaign in California that would help label GMO’s? Are many of their other products genetically modified?
            I don’t have an answer. What I am saying is that it is nonsensical…fishy business. VERY Bad business practices for Silk, unethical to say the least. Why would anyone support a business that is trying to squash propositions that would promote accountability and good health?

          • Susan says

            I contacted Silk last year regarding the carrageenan in the soy/almond milks. They said their customers liked it…and sent me coupons..no thanks..I do not want it. Nor do I want Palminate A in my drinks. Depressing and very difficult to find unadulterated almond/coconut/rice milks. Any suggestions????
            Also where to buy pesticide free almonds to make own almond milk – 10 pounds is a lot to buy for one person (found site on the net)…

  13. Michelle says

    I buy our almond milk at Fresh & Easy. It is organic and I just checked the label-no carrageenan, yay! However, the coconut milk does. I’m so disappointed in So Delicious because I loooove their products!

  14. DrMommy says

    Oh no! Both my organic almond milk (Pacific, I believe, from Trader Joe’s) and the coconut milk from TJ’s have it listed. I’m tempted to go to Fresh and Easy today, but we have boycotted Silk due to prop 37/Gmo labeling. Uggh.

  15. Tara says

    Best solution is making your own! Once you get in the habit, it’s not a problem. Just soak your almonds over night, blend with water in the AM and strain — make enough for a couple of days :)

  16. says

    Once again spot on with your information. I have been reading so many labels lately and seeing this more and more. Every time I saw it my gut said avoid it, just like yours did. One label did go so far as to tell me it was derived from seaweed…which made me think it was a little better than it actually is. Thanks for sharing and I’ll go back to avoiding again!
    Jesica H recently posted..Wreck-It Ralph available on 3D Blu-ray Combo Pack March 5th!

  17. says

    So I have been more aware of what I eat and feed my family I have become the “chief of health” for my family. What is insane is I did not realize how much control our government has in our food and then again to find out how they allow large corporations to ruin our health by neglecting our food safety. I may be a little late but today I saw the movie “Food Inc.” for those of you who don’t believe in eating organic, this film will change the way you shop and second guess what you consume. To think that us as a society are progressing and revolutionizing and improving the world but in reality it appears that as a high tech nation we are finding ways to eradicate each and one of us little by little without remorse. Just thought I’d share this…. GO ORGANIC!!!

  18. says

    Wow great job on this Chrystal. My wife and I just reviewed this and are quite shocked at Almond Milk ingredient. We were looking at some alternatives, and were looking at rice milk. Of course at least we can feel good about water – or at least I hope!
    Bob recently posted..Consequences of Drinking Soda

  19. Kristen says

    We began making our own almond milk a couple of months ago. It is so easy, inexpensive, quick, tastes amazingly better and uses 4 ingredients.
    Soaked raw almonds, filtered water, vanilla and optional sweetner such as vanilla stevia drops or a couple of raw dates. Blend (hopefully you have a vitamix for quicker) until all liquid, pour through a thin towel or milk bag into your container, squeeze or milk it. You will have the almond pulp left over in the towel or bag, which you can reuse if you like and your delicious homemade almond milk! Then try cashew and hemp! You won’t want to go back to store bought brand.

  20. joe says

    Wow….
    I am so upset over this. With our vi……mix blender my wife and I have been doing a real nice job being healthy, now only to discover this. How can any one win….?
    Even trying to eat healthy can kill you. (my opinion).
    Is there a link or a list of common foods and brands to look at.
    Thanks…joe

  21. Nasreen says

    does anyone know if some brands of almond milk contain Casein or gluten? I’ve read that some thickening agents added to certain almond milks may contain some gluten or casein! Is that true??
    Thanks.

  22. says

    I realize this is an old post but thanks for bringing this to my attention. I’m pregnant and have been eating lots of Publix cottage cheese for protein, and I see that it contains this ingredient. I feel like the more I learn, the less is safe to eat. Frustrating since I don’t have time to make my own food and drinks from scratch all day!

  23. Kelli says

    Thanks for the heads’ up.

    FYI: Silk “Fruit and Protein” drinks do not contain it. It is made with Certified Non-GMO soy milk. Yea!

    Simple Truth Organic Chocolate Almond Milk does not contain it, so I am guessing other Simple Truth flavors don’t either. Yea!

    My So Delicious Coconut milk contains it (sigh), so I guess I’m off to find another brand for that. Sprouts has it’s own line, so I’ll check that.

  24. Terri says

    I almost purchased Silk almond milk yesterday from Earth Fare until I read the ingredients and one of them is titanium dioxide! That doesn’t sound good at all. I decided to wait (on purchasing) until I research that ingredient. My brother, when he lived in Ohio had a safety inspector job at a titanium plant and it is a dangerous product and requires safety precautions (he didn’t work there long!) Today, I googled the Silk ingredients and they do NOT list that ingredient online. I wonder why? Anybody know anything about titanium dioxide??

  25. says

    I thought mabe someone would find this interesting. To carry the usda Organic label a product only needs to be 75% Organic. Companies like Whole Foods exploit consumers by presenting theirselves as an environmentally safe company when in fact they generate the most waste compared to others. Additionally, there main concern is exploitation, you can just ask the local vendors that thought they were getting a good deal tell Whole foods stole there idea and product. Companies that pretend to be something they are not is such a shame!

  26. Jane Peters says

    I can’t stand carrageenan. It irritates my throat bad. Why on earth this is put is so many foods in beyond me. I won’t buy anything that contains it. Food companies say it’s organic or natural. But guess what? So is mud. But I don’t want to that either.

  27. jamie says

    Hey, I make creams and toothpaste w/arrowroot powder. My daughter was scrolling around on internet and said, hey mom, did you did you know arrowroot is GMO? I’ve tried to find organic arrowroot…very hard. Do you have a good source. Thanks, Jamie

  28. Elbrodee says

    A note to remember about almond milk: since American almonds are pasteurized (many with PPO, and even the organic variety with steam treatment, making them very un-raw), almond milk becomes no better of a choice than soy beverages, with or without carrageenan present in the almond milk. The only solution is making one’s own beverages at home. Rather a daunting task for the hustle & bustle (especially those travelling regularly: what does one do on the road?)

  29. MissyE says

    Anybody know anything about titanium dioxide?? (from Terri’s Sep 30 post)
    Any insight/replies to Terri’s Sept 30 post on Silk almond milk ?

  30. Connie says

    This blog states that Silk (unsweetened) Almond Milk does NOT contain Carrageenan. However, the last time I checked, it did in fact list Carrageenan as an ingredient, so I stopped drinking it. Perhaps, it was added after this blog was written?

  31. Marissa says

    This made me really look at the ingredients on my Silk Dark Chocolate Almond Milk and I was surprised that I didn’t find carrageenan in the ingredients! Now granted that doesn’t mean that it isn’t in there, companies constantly hide things in their products, but for now I think I’ll stick with it :) I absolutely loathe normal milk and I’m lactose intolerant. I’ve yet to try the coconut almond milk, as I despise coconut, and I don’t like vanilla flavoured or unsweetened things. I’m slowly trying to wean my teenage self off of sweets before I go to college this summer and my Silk is the only thing I’m attempting to cling onto xD I’ve a pretty bad calcium deficiency so I’ve been taking vitamins and drinking about a glass every two days of the almond milk :) Its pretty tasty. But its scary thinking about that carrageenan in everything and it really makes me worry. I’ll have to educate my parents and brother on it and try to find healthier alternatives to some foods that have it.

  32. Remy Tran says

    Just recently discovered that almond breeze contains carrageenan after drinking it for quite some time now. Plan to start making my own almond milk however dont always have the time for that. Was wondering if anybody could recommend a healthy alternative. Was considering Silk unsweetened almond milk but heard some nasty news that they use GMO’s. Was also considering organic coconut milk. Any recommendations there? Sort of lost at this point. Just want something healthy to eat with my cereal…lolz.

    • says

      The Silk almond milk we buy is also Non-GMO Project Verified. I also discovered that Silk has taken the carrageenan out of their almond-coconut blend! Bought some the other day. Don’t love the synthetic vitamins, but it’s a step in the right direction.

  33. Natalie says

    Chrystal,

    Do you know of any organic almond milk brands that don’t have carageenan in them?

    Thanks,
    Natalie

  34. Nicole Delguyd says

    I found an organic vanilla almond milk without this ingredient! It is from Whole Foods called 365! 😉

  35. Gigi says

    Wouldn’t the risk of carrageenan depend on how much is in the product? I imagine the animal testing was with probably hundreds more times the amount that is in the almond milk. Some things are bad in mass quantities but safe in tiny amounts. Have you looked into this?

  36. Mallory says

    You should update your list So Delicious has removed carrageenan from most of it’s products. I bought a carton of Vanilla coconut milk without it!! Check it out!

  37. Dawne says

    I discovered that carrageenan makes my joints hurt. like a lot. like i hit my finger joints with a hammer. :( I stopped using all the non-dairy substitutes that I was using, and contacted So Delicious about their one product that I found that did not include carrageenan in its ingredient list (the vanilla coconut milk), and they assured me that they are phasing it out. It is dependent on the new packaging, new cartons no longer list it in the ingredients. A spokesperson told me that it is no longer used.

    Keep talking, keep demanding real food, we will get there some day :)

  38. Jessy says

    Hello!
    I was looking into the Coconut Milk Light that I have here at home, and I checked the ingredients and it says WATER,COCONUT….thats it…its from BLue dragon. Do you think they are lying with the ingredients or is it safe?

  39. says

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I had no idea how bad carrageenan is. My family and I drink Silk and Blue Diamond almond, coconut and lately cashew milk. I’m glad to know at least one Blue Diamond type does not contain this awful ingredient. Is there a list that you know of to check which non-dairy milks don’t contain carrageenan? Thank you!
    Tracy Spangler recently posted..M.I.A. Lately

  40. Stacie says

    This is highly disturbing! I am trying to find a brand my daughter can have. She drinks unsweetened almond milk, but the Silk clogs her bottle because it is a little thicker and grittier in texture.

  41. Richard says

    I know this post is about carrageenan but another culprit in all of these…and almost everything….is “Natural Flavors”. Good luck finding out what that means. The flavor industry is one of the most secret industries out there. A stew of chemicals that mimic “natural” flavors but are hardly what they imply.

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