JECFA concludes use of carrageenan in infant formula “not of concern.”

  • Carrageenan is a seaweed-derived ingredient used widely in the food industry to perform gelling, thickening, and stabilizing functions.  Although many long-term studies support the safety of carrageenan consumption, concerns have been raised in recent years regarding its potential to cause gastrointestinal inflammation.
  • At its June 2015 meeting in Geneva, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) concluded that the use of carrageenan in infant formula is “not of concern” at levels of up to 1,000 mg per liter.  JECFA’s report references new studies that “allay the earlier concerns that carrageenan, which is unlikely to be absorbed, may have a direct effect on the immature gut.”
  • Although carrageenan lawfully may be used in infant formula in the United States, such use is not permitted in the EU.  In light of the new data and JECFA’s conclusive opinion on this subject, it remains to be seen whether the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will revisit its prior evaluation.