Letters To The Editor: An additive that has been proved safe

The Washington Post – August 22, 2014

Regarding the Aug. 18 front-page article “Food additives on the rise as FDA scrutiny wanes”:

The Post was correct to say that carrageenan is a popular food additive because it helps meet consumer demands for high-quality low-fat and vegan foods by providing important functional benefits including stabilization and thickening.

The article ignored, however, the conclusion by scientists that carrageenan is safe for even the most vulnerable of populations. Instead, The Post suggested scientific skepticism, which is not the case. The independent body that reviews food additives for the World Health Organization, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), recently announced that a thorough scientific review found carrageenan safe for use even in infant formula.

This major finding was referenced only vaguely in a photo cutline with the online version of the article, while Dr. Joanne Tobacman’s outdated petition, from 2008, to the Food and Drug Administration was highlighted. Yet JECFA and the FDA ultimately rejected that petition because the research it rests upon does not apply to the way carrageenan is consumed by people.

The jury is not still out on carrageenan, and there is no lack of information on its safety. There is simply a mischaracterization and misapplication of science regarding this important additive.

William B. Matakas Jr., Washington

The writer is president of Marinalg International , which represents the interests of seaweed farms and processors.

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