I Have A Food Allergy

humphry slocombe hong kong milk tea ice cream

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.

carrageennan in trader joe's cottage cheese

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

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)
  • 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.

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!

27 Responses

  1. Candy Kage May 12, 2017 / 9:05 am

    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 May 12, 2017 / 9:36 am

      That is the dream! Not really a possibility in downtown SF where I live, but you are so lucky to have that!

  2. Lauren B. May 12, 2017 / 10:38 am

    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 May 24, 2017 / 11:34 am

      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.

  3. Kristen May 12, 2017 / 12:45 pm

    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 May 24, 2017 / 11:35 am

      it’s so true! So many sneaky things in our foods.

  4. randa hamad May 12, 2017 / 1:31 pm

    i am really sorry for what i hear…may God protect you 🙂

  5. Jennifer L. | Modern Chic Mag May 14, 2017 / 9:38 pm

    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 May 24, 2017 / 11:37 am

      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.

  6. Amy May 24, 2018 / 4:21 pm

    Excellent read! I never even realised this was an allergy. Hope you’re going okay x

  7. Ashley June 27, 2018 / 10:52 pm

    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!!!

  8. Kristina July 17, 2018 / 9:45 am

    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!

  9. Anna Lucia August 18, 2018 / 3:02 pm

    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!

  10. Rachel September 8, 2018 / 6:18 pm

    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

    • Chelsea January 2, 2019 / 12:35 pm

      So glad this post helped give some added insight. Be well and happy 2019!

  11. Meme B September 30, 2018 / 5:16 am

    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.

    • Chelsea January 2, 2019 / 12:34 pm

      It’s such a sneaky ingredient! It’s in so many dairy products.

  12. nahid A January 2, 2019 / 12:22 pm

    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 ?

    • Chelsea January 2, 2019 / 12:30 pm

      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 January 2, 2019 / 1:07 pm

        Yes, thank you Chelsea!

    • B January 9, 2019 / 6:42 am

      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 March 11, 2019 / 4:01 pm

      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 .

      • Tracey March 19, 2019 / 9:10 am

        This is what happens to me too

  13. Ellen January 21, 2019 / 3:33 am

    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.

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