A 90-day dietary study on kappa carrageenan with emphasis on the gastrointestinal tract

Myra L. Weiner, David Nuber, William R. Blakemore, Jay F. Harriman, Samuel M. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Groups of Fischer 344 rats (20/sex/group) received control or treated diets at levels of 0, 25,000 or 50,000 ppm kappa carrageenan with a molecular weight range (Mw) of 196,000-257,000 Da for 90 days. The Low Molecular Weight Tail (LMT) ranged between 1.9% and 12.0% < 50 kDa (mean 7%) based on the results of a program initiated to develop a validated analytical method to measure the LMT. This is the first GLP dietary study in which carrageenan is characterized by percentage LMT. Clinical examinations were performed daily. Individual food consumption/body weight measurements were made weekly. Ophthalmic exam was conducted prior to and at the end of treatment. Hematology/serum chemistry and urinalysis evaluations were done at necropsy, as were organ weight determinations for adrenals, brain, heart, kidneys, liver, ovaries, spleen, testes and thyroid with parathyroids. Full histopathological evaluation of organs was conducted on the control and 50,000 ppm groups, including hematoxylin-eosin-stained cross sections of paraffin-embedded rolled colon. Clinical signs were limited to soft feces in high dose rats and to a lesser extent in low dose rats. There were no treatment-related effects on body weights, urinalysis, hematology or clinical chemistry parameters, or on organ weights or ophthalmic, macroscopic or microscopic findings. The gastrointestinal tract appeared normal in detailed histopathological evaluation using the Swiss roll technique. The NOAEL is 50,000 ppm in the diet (mean calculated test material consumption of 3394 ± 706 mg/kg/day in males, 3867 ± 647 mg/kg/day in females). The results of the study provide evidence that it is not necessary to characterize carrageenan by a specification for LMT (less than 5% below 50 kDa) as has been done in Commission Directive 2004/45/EC of 16 April 2004 (Commission Directive, 2004/45/EC of 16 April 2004 amending Directive 96/77/EC laying down specific purity criteria on food additives other than colors and sweetners. Official Journal of European Union 20 April, 2004, L113/19-L113/21).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-106
Number of pages9
JournalFood and Chemical Toxicology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Carrageenan
  • Colon roll
  • Kappa carrageenan
  • Molecular weight
  • Subchronic toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Toxicology


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