Carrageenan in Pet Food

Moving on to the letter C in our A to Z Pet Food Ingredient series. Today we examine why Carrageenan is in Pet Food.

What is Carrageenan?

According to Wikipedia, Carrageenans are a family of carbohydrate structures that are extracted from red edible seaweeds.

Common names for Carrageenan

The most common names for carrageenan on food labels are alternative spellings including Carageenan, Carrageenen, and Carrigeenin.

Why is Carrageenan included in Pet Food?

Carrageenans are widely used in the food industry because of their gelling, thickening, and stabilizing properties. They bind strongly to food proteins such as meat and dairy.  They are most common in loafs and pate style wet foods.

Common benefits or risks of Carrageenan

Food-grade (also known as un-degraded) carrageenan is on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's list of items that are “Generally Recognized as Safe”.  The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) considers it an acceptable emulsifier, stabilizer, and thickener in pet food.

There have been several studies that suggest that carrageenan can be in instigator to cancer although it is not currently known as a carcinogen.  (For a great summary on this research, read Chris Kresser’s recap)

Carrageenan might cause intestinal distress in some pets.

Ingredient Comfort Level

Because it has no nutritional benefit and the possibility that it can cause stomach upset and might have a linkage to cancer, carrageenan is not a recommended ingredient.

Miscellaneous facts about Carrageenan

Besides pet food, carrageenan is often used in ice cream, milkshakes and other desserts as well as diet soda, beer, pates and shampoo.

Carrageenan is thought to have anti-viral properties and several research studies have been conducted to determine its efficacy against the common cold and even HIV.

Sources and further reading

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