On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted 10 to 3, with one abstention, to remove carrageen from the National List of substances approved for use in organic foods.

Although carrageenan, used commonly as a bulking agent, carrier, stabilizer or thickener in infant formula, dairy products, meats and drink mixes is not organic, the National Organic Program allows for certain synthetic and non-synthetic substances to be used in or processed in organic or made with organic foods, if the item is not harmful to the environment or human health, if the item is necessary to production but a natural or organic alternative is unavailable and if it is consistent with organic principles.

After public comments arose of whether carrageenan may cause inflammation and possibly even cancer, the Handling Subcommittee conducted a limited scope report of which the NOSB concluded there was a lack of scientific studies to prove this.

“We recognize that consumer demand to remove carrageenan has already led to the removal of carrageenan from a number of categories of products and that other alternatives could be used to replace carrageenan in additional products,” said the review. “Subcommittee members think that there are alternatives to using carrageenan and recommend removing this material from the National List.”

For dairy products, the subcommittee found gellan gum, xanthan gum and guar gum to be an alternative. For organic products such as vegan and vegetarian, no alternative has been found.

Posted on WholeFoods Magazine Online, 11/23/2016