Food Science Matters: Food Science Matters Alerts Food Editors to Cornucopia Report Touting Flawed Science

Food Science Matters Alerts Food Editors to Cornucopia Report Touting Flawed Science

Food Science Matters: Food Science Matters Alerts Food Editors to Cornucopia Report Touting Flawed ScienceThe Cornucopia Institute, a trade organization representing small organic farming operations, has issued a ‘report’ critical of the stabilizing ingredient carrageenan, derived from red seaweed. This is the organization’s latest lobbying effort employed during the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) hearings on the suitability of nonorganic substances allowed as ingredients in U.S. organic foods.

The Cornucopia report is fraught with bias against industry and regulatory authorities and fails to recognize credible science, or to even distinguish between carrageenan and an entirely different chemical compound.

All red seaweed has varying molecular weights. In Cornucopia’s specific report, it claims that a 10-year-old review of testing to determine molecular weights of food-grade carrageenan identified the chemical poligeenan as present in as much as 25 percent of the samples.

Cornucopia has confused poligeenan with carrageenan. Poligeenan is created at very high temperatures and extreme acidic conditions and is not used or present in food. The testing referred to by Cornucopia was done to identify low molecular weight carrageenan as a percentage of food-grade carrageenan.

There was one abnormal test that showed levels as high as 25 percent. However, all the others showed levels between 0 percent and 4 percent. None of the low molecular material, including material from the one abnormal test, was poligeenan.

Cornucopia’s report goes on to allege global collusion or incompetence between business, regulatory authorities and independent review panels. The report was issued currently with a lawsuit Cornucopia has filed against the USDA over its management of the National Organics Program.

The report lauds research, particularly from one laboratory, that has been routinely discredited by other science and found unconvincing by regulatory authorities.

The timing of Cornucopia’s latest report does not allow much time for careful review prior to the NOSB vote. A review of the Cornucopia report is available at

Carrageenan is a derivative of the same red seaweed that has been used as a thickener or stabilizer in foods for centuries. The overwhelming scientific evidence confirming the safety of carrageenan has existed for decades, including a 2015 review by the Joint FAO / WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives that found carrageenan to be of ‘no concern’ even in infant formula.

Research and references are available within the review of the Cornucopia report We also suggest you visit the timeline outlining an overview of the scientific studies on carrageenan.

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The Food Science Matters initiative is supported by FMC Corporation. FMC’s goal is to play our part in bringing safe, healthy and enjoyable foods to future consumers and cultures throughout the world. We are proud of the science and the people practicing it who will make that goal both achievable and sustainable.