Is Commercially Mass-Produced Eggnog Unhealthy?

Irish moss seaweed -- is there a little of this in your packaged eggnog?
Irish moss seaweed -- is there a little of this in your packaged eggnog?

When you want some eggnog this time of year, all you have to do is reach into the refrigerator case at your local supermarket or bodega and Bam! You've got some delicious eggnog. But are commercially produced products, even organic ones, always good for you? The Wisconsin-based organic agriculture think tank Cornucopia Institute doesn't think so.

In a recent press release emailed to food writers, the Institute warns that many commercially produced eggnogs contain carrageenan, a chemical stabilizer. This additive imparts a thickness to the beverage's texture (one might almost say sliminess), and assists in keeping the other ingredients from separating, though it's not an actual emulsifier. So, some of that slickness and thickness we expect from commercial eggnog, the quality that helps it stand up to mega amounts of alcohol without becoming noticeably thinner, is partly the result of carrageenan.

Yes, the carrageenan is produced from natural sources, but not everything added from nature is salutary to your health. In particular, Cornucopia claims, carrageenan is a bowel irritant for certain people, and can create a chronic state of inflammation that can lead to more serious illnesses - including cancer.

Here is their exact claim:

Food-grade carrageenan, derived from seaweed, has been shown to cause gastrointestinal inflammation, both in laboratory animals and in studies using human colon cells. Gastrointestinal inflammation is a precursor to many digestive diseases, including colon cancer. In several studies with laboratory animals given food-grade carrageenan in the diet, carrageenan was shown to promote colon tumors. And many individuals suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), "belly bloat" or other chronic intestinal maladies have found relief after eliminating carrageenan from their diet.

Discouraging, huh? But really, you ought to be making your own eggnog anyway, and Fork in the Road promises a recipe or two in the coming days.

In the meantime, Cornucopia singles out Organic Valley, Kalona Supernatural, and Straus Family Creamery as organic brands without any carrageenan added.

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