Words I never thought I’d say: I have a carrageenan allergy. After seeing an allergist for a year, buying Bendaryl by the case, a few used Epi-Pens, and one trip to the ER, I finally have a diagnosis. I am allergic to carrageenan, a seaweed derived ingredient used in all sorts of packaged foods. I’m glad to finally have an answer to my sporadic allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) to foods I’ve eaten my whole life with seemingly zero common denominator.
Unfortunately, this now means I have to change my grocery shopping and eating habits tremendously. Carrageenan is used as a stabilizer, sweetener, and gelling agent in all kinds of foods, including “healthy” packaged foods you find at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Generally speaking, you may find it in dairy and dairy-free products such as cream cheese, coffee creamer, and ice creams. It’s an extremely rare food allergy to have, so I’m hoping this post can be a resource for anyone trying to avoid this sneaky natural additive.
Foods That Contain Carrageenan
Here are some of the brands and foods which contain carrageenan that I’m avoiding.
- Protein Bars: Pure Protein
- Protein Drinks: Pure Protein, Core Power
- Soy Milk: Silk, Kirkland, Pacific Foods
- Almond Milk: Pacific Foods, Trader Joe’s
- Coffee Creamer: Nestle Coffee Mate, International Delight, Silk, So Delicious (not something I typically consume)
- Whipped Cream: Reddi-Whip, Land O Lakes, Starbucks
- Cottage Cheese: Trader Joe’s
- Sour Cream: Lucerne
- Ice Cream: Ben & Jerry’s, Baskin-Robbins, So Delicious, Magnum, Fast Food Chains (McDonald’s, Chick-Fil-A, Sonic Drive-In, Dairy Queen, Cold Stone, Culver’s)
- Hot Chocolate Mix: Swiss Miss, Trader Joe’s
- Coffee Shops: whipped cream at Starbucks, soy milk at Starbucks, coconut milk at Starbucks, almond milk at Peet’s
- Meatless Meats: Beyond Meat Beast Burgers
- Deli Meats: Trader Joe’s, Applegate
- Soups: Campbell’s Well Yes Soups (select flavors)
- Salad Dressing: Bolthouse Farms
Foods That Don’t Contain Carrageenan
Here are the brands and substitutions I will be using moving forward.
- Protein Bars: Quest, Amazing Grass, Think Thin
- Soy Milk: West Soy
- Almond Milk: Califia Farms, Malk, New Barn, Almond Breeze (select varieties)
- Oat Milk: Califia Farms, Oatly
- Whipped Cream: Organic Valley
- Sour Cream: Daisy, Knudsen, Clover
- Ice Cream: Three Twins, Humphry Slocombe, Häagen-Dazs (select flavors)
- Coffee Shops: Four Barrel, Sightglass, The Mill, Verve, Craftsman and Wolves (all serve Califia Farms almond milk)
It’s always a good idea to look at the ingredient labels to get the most updated information, just in case any of these brands switch things up. Additionally, I’ve taken a deep dive into my skin care and makeup to remove exposure to carrageenan entirely.
I’ve always been very sympathetic to those with severe food allergies and sensitivities. I’m working hard on making it a habit to pick up label before I pick up the fork to ensure what I’m eating is allergen-free. Have you ever heard of carrageenan or do you struggle with food allergies? I would love to hear your story in a comment below. Thanks for reading!
Candy Kage says
This is the reason why we grow such a big garden, raise our own meat and process and make everything we can from scratch.
Chelsea Pearl says
That is the dream! Not really a possibility in downtown SF where I live, but you are so lucky to have that!
I figured out that I am also super allergic suddenly it seems to Carrageenan. It has been destroying my health at a horrible steady rate fornalmost year now. I am finding out that this is a mega battle, because I believe if they don’t use use more than 30% of it in their product they don’t even have to list it. So… Beware. It’s misery served unjustly.
Thanks for sharing.
So I had some Irish moss for immune protection. I had an allergic reaction to this but it revealed the true issues I had for many years. Irish moss sea moss is also known as It was renamed carrageenan which is in most foods and I never knew this. This is known for high iodine foods. So if you have an allergy to iodine you are just going to have problems with your skin for the rest of your life. That is my problem.
I am “allergic” to carrageean. It speeds up my heart rate ( 120 bpm or more ) and gives me stomach and significant chest pains….. and later, acid reflux. It takes an hour or more for me to recover. THANK YOU for relating the information re: the 30 % possibly not even being listed in the ingredients. I am very upset about what they are allowed to put in our foods, sometimes without our even knowing it! Outrageous!!!!!
Artist 10 says
I couldn’t agree with you more on this subject; I suffer from carrageenan allergies as well. Have to read the labels on everything; and that isn’t always reliable, I try to stay away from everything that causes me to have a reaction to this stuff. We grow all our own vegetables, make as much as I can from home, That’s the saddest part of this; the not knowing what’s… in our food! Thank you for the information.
Joy Turner says
I am highly allergic to wheat and now have developed allergy to carrageenan. I’m wondering if my digestive issues from wheat made me more susceptible to carrageenan allergy…after reading ingredient lists, I’m shocked at the amount of foods that contain it. I had some pre-cooked wings from Sam’s Club that made me sick….guess what?! Contained carrageenan..if it has a label…read it. Much of Europe has banned it…wake up America…
Lauren B. says
Yes there is so much crap in everything! I have heard of this ingredient before, but I thought it was a coloring agent. (shows what I know! ha!) I am glad you figured out what was causing your allergy.
Chelsea Pearl says
It’s a sneaky one! Seems to be in a lot of foods… I recently read some brewers even use it in the beer brewing process.
I’m sorry to hear you have an allergy, but glad you figured it out! Crazy how many ingredients are in what we eat and we don’t even know!
Chelsea Pearl says
it’s so true! So many sneaky things in our foods.
randa hamad says
i am really sorry for what i hear…may God protect you 🙂
Chelsea Pearl says
Thanks Randa! Same to you.
Jennifer L. | Modern Chic Mag says
Sorry to hear you’ve been going through this, bu good to hear that you have a diagnosis now and know what allergy you have. It’s crazy what fillers can be in so many different foods.
Chelsea Pearl says
I was shocked how many different foods it can be in! It can even be used in the beer brewing process and it would never be listed on the label.
Excellent read! I never even realised this was an allergy. Hope you’re going okay x
For two years, I’ve been dealing with a rare, unexplained food allergy. The symptoms are delayed. Experts cannot figure it out. I’m starting to narrow it down to what I believe could be carrageenan. Thanks for the info!!!
I noticed your comment about being in the beer brewing process. Have you had similar reactions to ice cream and beer? These so far seem to be the only things I can find that really set off my stomach. I was originally thinking it was a gluten issue, then dairy, but now I’m wondering about this. I tried a dairy-free ice cream (Almond Dream) but had the exact same reaction. Thanks for posting this!
Anna Lucia says
I’m allergic to carageenan too! I just found out about it along with a long list of other things including guar gum and arrowroot! I’ve tried eliminating everything to help with my chronic daily migraines and now this allergy could explain it all!
Happy to meet you Chelsea Pearl.
I think it’s taken me five years to narrow done my allergy between xanthan gum, guar gum and carrageenan, I broncho-constrict and wheeze for several hours. I used to write down everything I ate which eventually limited me to only eat at home and avoid all three of these thickeners. Today, I think I have it figured out, we had whip cream and carrageenan appears to be culprit.
Best in avoiding carrageenan! Rachel
So glad this post helped give some added insight. Be well and happy 2019!
Whip creme is what helped me figure this crap out too. A week or so ago my baby had some read marks on her face when I got home from work. Her grandmother was watching her and said it was food on her face. I didn’t think so but it must have been at the tail end of the reaction.
Then my wife gave the baby a taste of chocolate frosty from Wendy’s and it gave our baby a reaction.
Last night we were eating at a restaurant and my wife had let the baby taste a few things and she had a reaction. To me it seems like the reaction followed everywhere her hands had been on her face (the baby). So I touched a dab of whip cream and rubbed it on her forehead. Sure enough shortly there was a read mark. We got the brand of the whip cream. I assumed it was likely a phosphate reaction but when we got home and started doing some research it looks like it’s carrageenan because the list of ingredients on whip cream is very short. Unfortunately food can have that product in it and not list the product.
Meme B says
Just figured this out last night. I developed an allergy last year where my eyelids and under eyes puffed up dramatically. Went to the allergist and although I’m allergic to the usual, he said since it’s only my eyes that he’d do nothing. Just use the over the counter – that didn’t work. Well, after dropping almost all dairy, I had whipped cream from a can a couple times and the eyes started to swell. My husband figured out the whipped cream and then said maybe it’s something IN the canned cream. Then I found this additive.
It’s such a sneaky ingredient! It’s in so many dairy products.
Ellen Miller says
I’m having problems right now with my eyes and came to this page because I suspect it! Thank you for posting this reaction.
nahid A says
Thanks for sharing! My son had a severe allergic reaction to the Odwalla Strawberry Protein shake which has carrageenan in the list of ingredients, and I am trying to find out if that was the cause or other hidden protein ingredients not listed on the label of the bottle since he has peanuts and tree nuts allergy. Is there an allergy test for carrageenan ?
There is no allergy test for carrageenan, but you can order it in powdered form and bring it to your doctor to see what they recommend. Hope this helps!
Nahid A says
Yes, thank you Chelsea!
Been getting sporadic migraines for twenty years. Finally figured out it was carrageenan and smoke flavoring. Most of the pain is in my face around my eyes, accompanied by lots of bleching. Just when I think i have a handle on it, I screw up and eat something with one or both in it. It’s frustrating that they say it is safe and it never appears on lists of possible headache triggers.
Discovered this nasty additive through a severe reaction to a new face serum at the weekend that had it in! and have now made the connection to past unsolved anaphylactic reactions
I have struggled with migraines for 20 years. Only a couple years ago I finally realized it was carrageenan. It is so difficult to avoid, it would be super helpful if all of us who have issues with it could combine our knowledge of the products we react to since it is often not on the label.
Yes, there is. I was tested 4 years ago and was positive. You have to ask for the test, several labs offer it. Even Anylabtestnow had it in the allergy panel from Spectrum.
Philicia Peters says
Hello ! I recently found out that I have an allergy to carageenan as well . If I have any I am sick for days in end . I can not stand up straight for days. After I consume uist a little bit of something with it in. I develop severe stomach pain, ibs, headaches and shaking . It completely ruins me for days till I can even semi function .
This is what happens to me too
Yes, i get shaky too. Its a weird feeling. 2 days.
This is similar to the experience I have, though my experiences have not been as severe as what you explain. I usually have painful inflammation and cramps (often almost immediately) and IBS that lasts for days. There have been a few cases where I have been so sick from accidentally eating carrageenan that I have been bed-ridden for a day or more and have had to take time off work. Having struggled with IBS for years, I am very deliberate about my digestive health and work hard to maintain it. It is so frustrating to have all of that work sabotaged by one wrong choice at a restaurant or by missing that one word on an ingredients list. There is no food value to the substance, and I wish they would just ban it.
I am a diagnosed celiac. I consumed some of this through whipped cream last night and I am now having an attack that is identical to consuming gluten. It was the only item on the table that was processed, so I started researching the ingredients only to find carrageenan. Side effects show it should not be consumed by gluten sensitive people, yet it is used in items listed as “gluten free”!
I have developed what I suspect to be a sensitivity to carageenan just this year. I love the taste of the Mountain Dairy vanilla egg nog (sold by Kroger affiliated stores), but this year I have started getting cramps and diarrhea after drinking a lot of it. A few days after that had subsided, I had some cottage cheese and some soup, both had carageenan in them, and had the same symptoms. Now I am trying to avoid anything with carageenan. I am glad that Daisy products do not have carageenan in them, and are not real expensive. Sad that the only chocolate milk without it that I have found so far is rather expensive compared to the others.
Michele Glidden says
I figured out a few years ago that I too am very sensitive to carrageenan. At the time I had never even heard of it. I was using a lot of the organic Pacific almond from Trader Joe’s. I was also in the habit of stopping at the fro yo shop near my house. I’ve since learned it is in pretty much all frozen yogurt. Thank you for sharing this, especially how many foods have this ingredient. There were so many things on your list I would not have suspected and I avoid carrageenan like the plague. Do you happen to know which breweries are using it? I’m an IPA fan. I wish they had to list it if they use it in their process.
I am also severely severely to carrageenan and even more so to guar gum. Horrible and scary anaphylaxis with trips to the hospital and allergists occurred from ingestion of something. It took a while to figure out what it was and now that I know I obsessively look at labels. Shopping at the health food store did not solve this as both of these additives are listed as “organic” on labels. They are natural products. Eating at restaurants is a problem, as anything that contains a sauce, especially one with dairy products, is suspect – heavy cream, whipped cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, cheeses – mozzarella, and ricotta cheese are problematic. Recently I found that coconut milk and other coconut type products may contain these allergens. Another problem is with prepared foods that say they contain heavy cream or cream. I don’t know IF the ingredients in the cream they used to make the product are included in the list that is provided on the product – for example ice cream made with cream. Sometimes I have had a reaction and I think it is coming from an ingredient in the list that doesn’t have it’s ingredients listed! I am in my 60s and these allergies reached a life threatening level about 3 years ago. For years I was having a milder reaction to eating smooth ice cream and lattes/desserts that had whip cream on them. Allergies can increase over time to reach a seriously life threatening level suddenly. It is important to be aware.
I just figured out that I have this allergy and what’s I have also discovered is that this ingredient is also in toothpaste.
I have an anaphylactic reaction to carrageenan as well. I have had to use my Epi-pen several times because of it.
I thought I was going crazy with severe scratchy painful throat and IBS . It was carageen . It’s in everything pretty soon we won’t be able to eat anything from the store because of the cheap additives they are using in foods. So scarey! Thanks for the great article! I am. It alone on this one!
I had a severe allergic reaction to a seaweed snack. After reading about seaweed, I learned of carrageenan & wondered if it was a hidden source for smaller reactions I have had in the past. I now avoid those foods. I feel it should be clearly labelled as seaweed. I have also had severe reactions to shellfish which both filter the ocean. I wonder how frequently these allergies co-exist.
I learned about carrageenan on my own. Doctors, even allergist never heard of it! I was diagnosed with Collagenous Colitis by Mayo Clinic, following a colonscooy in my local hospital. I have to check all dairy products. I just had diarrhea following a TV dinner. Cheese over french fries contained it! Deli roasted whole Amish chicken from grocery store in Florida. Silk brand Almond Milk doesn’t contain it. Hudsonville ice cream in Michgan doesn’t contain it, except one flavor I just had Cherry Cheesecake at a birthday party last night. Diarrhea today. I didn’t buy it, so don’t know the brand. Wish the government would disallow it like other countries have!!!
Thank you for sharing your information on reactions to carrageenan. I have found out recently that this is what I am having so much problems with. They are using as a vegan alternative as a thickner- so I now need to steer clear of any products that might contain. Recently have been caught out by raw chicken, they are using to soak raw chicken and fish fillets in to add weight and “plump” the product before sale. Once I have eaten- the food just does not digest and it also has a stimulation to my mind and heart- I can feel it. I think also it might be used in some wines as a preservative. This is really scary stuff. It should be banned! Thank you for everyone’s comments- helps so much!!
I have Crohn’s disease–I was diagnosed at age 50. I can manage it pretty well by watching what and when I eat, but I discovered about a year ago that my symptoms worsen when I eat anything with carrageenan. It is in so much, so I carefully read all labels. I have stopped buying anything that says “cream” in it too because I fear the cream may have carrageenan in it. I feel a lot better since I have avoided this ingredient. I hope it is banned soon. Thanks for your post.
Colleen j says
I have always had a “cast iron stomach” and could eat spicy, etc. without issue. Maybe 6 months ago digestive trouble started, and I realized carageenan in heavy whipping cream I was putting in coffee was the problem. (I thought that came straight from cows, but no).
I recently bought groceries at Aldi and symptoms returned with a fury. My daughter saw the similarity and told me to go home and read labels. It was in the turkey lunch meat, most definitely in the cream cheese (I threw out package, but had a sleepless night after making broccoli cheese soup with it), not on label for half & half, but I think it’s in there, and I found it on Walmart great value aerosol whipped cream which I haven’t used recently.
Even though I know to avoid it, I was also caught off-guard by a refrigerated blue cheese salad dressing (Lighthouse brand), not long ago.
I never suspected lunch meat or half & half (without it on the label). You need a magnifying glass at the market, and still difficult to avoid.
I am wondering if I have this allergy as well. Just drank a vanilla protein shake by Odwalla. My mouth and throat are itching now and my stomach is uneasy. It says on the said that “allergic reactions to this product have been reported by peanut and tree nut sensitive people. Contains no peanuts or tree nuts.”
I have a mild allergy to walnuts but don’t generally have to avoid anything except the walnut itself. But after reading through the ingredients, carrageenan could also be the culprit.
I will definitely be on the lookout for this in future products I eat. Thank you for sharing your experience.
Last three months I have written down everything that I ate because after eating ham or ice cream, my face turned red and came dry red spots. By narrowing I found out that it was carrageenan that caused all problems. Your story and information help so much, Chelsea thank you!
Jennifer Creavalle says
OMG! I have been going nuts, no pun intended here. I baught this nutty squares called “clean snack”. The main ingredients were to be coconut chia and flax. All good healthy stuff that I’ve eaten dozens of times. I had 1 square and minutes later my lip felt weird. Moments later it was slightly swollen. I immediately looked at the ingredients (should have done this before buying). It had all different kinds of additional tree nuts, all I have eaten many times. It also had xanthan gum, guar gum which I know I’ve consumed before. But there was one I ingredients I was suspicious of that I had never even heard of Garaneenan. I did some research and found out it is a red seaweed , known as a polysaccharide sulfate and is used to thicken foods and cosmetics. I new right away that this was the likely culprit because I am allergic to sulfates in hair dye. I’m also suspicious that I may have developed an allergy to guar gum which was also in the product because that same night I drank D-mannose a known food supplement to prevent UTI’S, which I’ve used many times before and immediately after the swelling of my lip doubled in size. I have been trying to find all the ingredients in D-mannose and have not been able to. I know it has cranberries which I’m fine with and I also found out that some brands have guar gum. It is so upsetting if you’ve never had a food reaction and down right scary when it involves swelling of your mouth. These food additives can be so dangerous to certain individuals that there should alert warnings on the packaging. Now I’m so paranoid. I can no longer use my D-mannose because I think it may have triggered the guar gum allergy or there is Garaneenan in this supplement as well.
Your article and the comments have been very eye opening. I spent thousands of dollars last year going to specialists for my headaches, digestive issues and extreme fatigue. I mentioned it on social media and a friend mentioned carrageenan as a possibility (I’d never even heard of it before) I started eliminating it and seemed to feel much better. Then found when adding it back in (coffee creamer, ice cream etc) the symptoms came back full force. So I am eliminating it wherever I can. It’s so debilitating for such a sneaky little product that hides where you wouldn’t expect it.
Glad I came across this. I am based in the UK – found out I had problems with carrageenan after a bad reaction to soya custard and then a vegan Magnum carrageenan was the only ingredient in both. In the UK/ Europe this also comes under E407 – so avoid if this too. I would also add that this can be injected into fresh meat (mainly chicken, sometimes pork) as it ‘adds flavour’ and keeps the meat moist. I have also read in can by sprayed on fresh fruit to make it look shiny.
nicole morell says
I feel really lucky to have potentially narrowed this down relatively quickly. I’ve had the same green smoothie for two years but suddenly became violently ill after drinking it. I could not make sense of the symptoms – chest pains, stomach cramps, vomiting. Because I only use a few ingredients (almond milk, almond butter, protein powder, fruit) I blamed the new protein powder. Thanks to a repeat of the symptoms the next day, I blamed the almond butter. Nope. Then I reacted to just almond milk. Never heard of a carragenan sensitivity or given this ingredient a second thought until I started to Google. So glad to have found an abundance of info. Thanks for posting!
Peggy Bostic says
I have Alpha Gal syndrome. It is an allergy to the red sugar carbohydrates in mammal meat. It is typically caused by a bite from the lone star tick, though i recall no bite. I am now allergic to all mammal derivatives (gelatin, glycerin, lanolin, b12, d3, etc) It raises histamines which causes food and heat related histamine reactions. Carrageenan has the same molecular structure as alpha gal, and causes the same reactions. Some of us are at risk for anaphylaxis. Reactions include shortness of breath, increased asthma symptoms, eczema, GI distress, vomiting, diarrhea, facial and body flushing and many more. If you have carrageenan allergy, you should get tested for Alpha gal.
I’ve just realized that I may be allergic to the Carrageenan in whipped cream & apparently everything else that may have it. Did you have skin irritation? I was on Keto 3 years ago which I had large amounts of heavy cream & who knows what else had carrageenan in it. My face broke out in these huge bumps. I went back on low carb & reintroduced whipping cream & got broken out again. Thank you for listening what has it in their ingredients.
Hi, I found out I was allergic to carrageenan when I bought a gluten free bar cake at Target. I have a gluten allergy too. Gave me bad cramps and a 3 day migraine. Researched every ingredient & figured it had to be the carrageenan. Later had ice cream that had carrageenan in it and got same symptoms. That sealed it for me. Just recently found another ingredient called Propylene Glycol Alginate (PGA), it too is made from seaweed. It was in my French dressing and I had same symptoms as I get w/carrageenan. So you may want to add that to your No list when label reading. The world of food additives can be a dangerous place, stay safe.
L. Kay says
Carrageenan, wow, maybe I finally found what causes it. I bought dog food that is all natural except for the carrageenan. My dog has licking and itching her paws. I bought this kind of dog food in the brand that her regular dog food is because they didn’t have the regular kind. While she licks her paws a little bit with the regular kind, it was a lot tonight. Her paws get red and sore too.
I have got to find her regular kind.
Valerie Hill says
I also am allergic to carrageenan. I just discovered it after going without my coffee creamer for a week at a convention. Discovering this has been a life changer. Carrageenan gives me severe whole digestive system problems, personality changes, fogginess, inflammation, skin issues, bloating, etc. But I keep being triggered by things that I suspect have it, but are not listed on the label. I want to start my new life without it, but it keeps getting me. Chicken, pies, alcohol. The list goes on.
Lisa James says
I too am allergic to carageenan which is in EVERYTHING! I also realized this sneaky ingredient goes by other names so BEWARE! Also known as: Anything ending in Alginate or Agar, ex: propylene glycol alginate, and Wakame. It also seems that every restaurant’s milkshakes are made with carageenan as well as Dunkin Donuts Frozen Chocolate drink.
Wow! Thank you and all who posted comments. The information posted is eye opening as to why my careful label reading hasn’t been completely effective at preventing
all my distess. For several years I had a chronic stomach ache, (stummyache as my daughter would say when she was little.) I was itchy, itchy, itchy, mainly in my torso areas. When wearing a belt if the metal buckle came into contact with my skin I would get red welts that erupted into blisters. That and the itchiness had me thinking I had developed allergies to things like latex and nickel. After a conversation with some friends about how ice cream doesn’t melt into a liquid like it used to do but instead becomes a gross frothy foam I began a quest to find ice cream that melts the right way that led me to carrageenan being the culprit of my miseries. Trust when I say that I have spared you the details of the more gruesome intestinal aspects that I experience as a result of carrageenan consumption.
I have tried to drink Almond milk more then once, and it makes my stomach hurt really bad. Ive wondered why? Ive had to change my diet completely cause of RA. Too much sugar has always bothered me and my stomach. Up and down. Diagnosed with fluctuating. Used to be hypoglycemic, but now it gets high if i dont watch it.