99.9% Natural but Still May Not Be Safe for All
Moneylife Digital Team 03 January 2018
Manufacturers of packaged foods are trying hard to meet the rising demand for natural products. Hence, you have bottles, wrappers, cans or tetra-packs assuring you that what’s inside is ‘all natural’. But it still may not be safe for all. Actually, there is no legal definition of the word natural; so, the product may contain many additives that are not desirable. Many people may be able to deal with such additives easily but many others, with compromised immunity, may be affected. One such chemical is carrageenan which is disclosed on the packs as E-407. 
 
Carrageenan happens to be a natural product extracted from red edible seaweeds. It has no nutritional value. Its chemical structure simply makes it useful as a binder, thickening agent and stabiliser. It is also used in medicines. Manufacturers use this as a vegan alternative to gelatine. But the main application is to thicken and emulsify beverages, especially all kinds of non-dairy milks—from hemp milk to coconut milk. The picture below is a good example. Kara coconut milk is 99.9% fresh coconut milk. But it, too, has E-407. A harmless additive behind the code number added to 99.9% pure fresh coconut milk? Not quite.
 
There are two types of carrageenan: un-degraded and degraded. Degraded carrageenan is used on lab rats to induce inflammation such as colitis. Un-degraded carrageenan is classified as ‘food grade’ and used as an additive. But, according to Cornucopia Institute, “carrageenan processors tend to portray the difference between degraded and un-degraded carrageenan as a simple, black and white distinction. They claim that food grade carrageenan sold to food processors falls entirely in the un-degraded category. However, studies (including industry-funded studies) show that food grade carrageenan is also linked to colon inflammation and colon cancer in animals. Studies have reported that un-degraded carrageenan can degrade in the gastro-intestinal tract to degraded carrageenan. Moreover, when the industry tested its food grade carrageenan for the presence of degraded carrageenan, results showed that every sample had at least some degraded carrageenan, with some test results of food grade carrageenan showing as much as 25% degraded carrageenan.”
 
In the European Union, un-degraded carrageenan is designated by the number E-407, and degraded carrageenan as E-407a. But India does not make such a distinction. So, even a product that has 99.9% fresh natural extract has an additive which is dubious. In fact, carrageenan is seen as a ‘natural food additive’ which means it will be added to so-called ‘natural foods’. No wonder, best-selling author and Bill Clinton’s physician, Mark Hyman, simply says buy products that have no label. In others words, buy everything natural and nothing coming out of food factories. 
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