Carrageenan is an ingredient of canned pet diets used to thicken, stabilize, and emulsify the food. It is used in many canned pet foods basically to improve the appearance and texture. There is absolutely no nutritional value to this ingredient.
Carrageenan is actually a group of compounds extracted from various species of red seaweed. As such, it is considered a “natural” ingredient. Now, the consumption seaweed itself has many health benefits. However, when you isolate this one family of constituents, problems arise.
While many types of carrageenan are harmless, there are forms that cause inflammation and predispose to cancer. Food-grade carrageenan is supposed to be free of the dangerous forms. Unfortunately, studies show that the carrageenan used in foods contain small amounts (up to 5%) of the nasty stuff. Food-grade carrageenan has been shown to increase free radicals and decrease insulin sensitivity as well as cause inflammation.
Seventy percent of canned pet foods contain carrageenan. Pets that are fed mostly canned food may consume enough of this toxin to cause inflammation and cancer. While dry pet foods have many negative health effects, canned foods with this ingredient may be even worse.
The sad thing is that carrageenan can easily be replaced by safer foods such as tomato paste, guar gum, potato starch, pea starch, tapioca, and garbanzo bean flour. Of course, none of these are appropriate foods for dogs and cats either – just less toxic.
By the way, many “natural” human foods such as certain dairy products, sandwich meats, infant formulas, dairy substitutes (e.g. almond and soy milk), frozen pizza dough, and others also contain carrageenan. Check your food labels carefully. Here is more info on carragenan in human foods.
It is impossible to list foods that do not contain carrageenan because pet food manufacturers frequently change formulations. The packaging and name may be the same but what’s in the can may change. The bottom line is to read labels and buyer beware.
Of course the way to avoid the many toxins found in processed pet foods is to feed a balance raw diet instead. That’s the kind of diet that Mother Nature intended pets to eat. In other words, pets have evolved eating unprocessed foods and their genetics have not changed significantly since they were hunters/scavengers.
If you feed canned pet food, check the label and let us know whether or not it contains carrageenan.