Label reading can come with so much confusion and frustration, and calling a manufacturer about a product can be even more frustrating. I cannot tell you how many times a company has told me to go read the ingredients and actually thought they were being helpful.
For many products, reading a label will not tell you everything you need to know.
I have read a lot of differing opinions on what legislation covers when it comes to soy allergy. I am no lawyer, but I am going to tell you what I believe it does and does not cover based on my own experiences with calling companies. Click here for tips on how to call companies about their products.
Whether legislation covers a label or not, you will need to read every single ingredient as well as watching for the “Contains: Soy” label. Sometimes you will see soy in the ingredient list, and other times you will see it listed underneath as a warning, but there isn’t a method to how soy is listed. Also look for long, technical words that contain “soy” somewhere in the middle of the word.
Packaged foods are covered if they directly contain soy, but NOT if they contain soybean oil or soy lecithin, and not if the ingredients are “derived” from soy. For example, if your spaghetti sauce has the words “spices,” “natural flavors,” or “artificial flavors,” then that could be a red flag. Where did these ingredients come from? Soy could be included in the processing.
This is where my one-page soy ingredient list is helpful when label reading. If you aren’t familiar with an ingredient, do not buy it, and if the ingredient is on the soy ingredient list, you will need to call and verify that the ingredient is not derived from soy.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables are not covered and can contain coatings with soy and other chemicals. Buy organic whenever possible, but know that soy can be organic too, and therefore could still be on your fresh fruits and vegetables. If you find that you are sensitive to fruits and vegetables, try thoroughly washing them or peeling them. I use a spray bottle with one cup of water to 1 tbsp of white vinegar to wash my fruits and veggies.
Medications are NOT COVERED, and I know this because I have had reactions from undeclared soy in both prescription and non-prescription drugs. I think that this is one of the biggest food allergy atrocities that I am aware of to date. I spent a lot of time calling over-the-counter antihistamines a couple of weeks ago to find that some of them are including soy without labeling. If an allergy manufacturer is doing this, you can bet others are too.
I also had an experience with my pharmacist in which he told me that most prescriptions do not contain soy and I had nothing to worry about. WRONG. I had an allergic reaction a few days later only to find that my prescription acid reflux medication contained soy. No wonder I had acid reflux. 🙂 I have now been able to completely eliminate the prescription acid reflux medicine and rely solely on over-the-counter remedies. It all goes back to the fact that you can read an ingredient label all day long, but that will not tell you if the glycerin, the magnesium stearate, the glycols, the cellulose, etc. is derived from soy.
Below are just a few medication categories that you should be aware of, but there are many more:
- Antihistamines (even dye free)
- Acid Reflux Medications
- Hormonal medications, such as birth control (soy is a phytoestrogen)
- Pain Relievers
- Any type of liquid medication or inhalant
- Decongestants and Expectorants
- Cough Medications and Throat/Cough Lozenges
I would also recommend researching heat patches or general bandages. I put a antibacterial bandage on my finger for a cut a couple of days ago, and I received a tell-tale rash.
Bath, Body and Household Products
I have spent countless hours researching this area, and I would estimate that 98% or more of the bath, body, cosmetic, and household products that you will find in a mainstream grocery or pharmacy contain soy and are NOT labeled. In fact, because soy has a lot of benefits (to those not allergic), many cosmetic companies specifically add and even market soy as an ingredient. Most of the products that I use are ordered online through my Allergy Friendy Store although you may be able to find some soy free products in health food stores.
Below is a list of products that you should beware of:
- shampoo/conditioner/hair styling products
- soaps and body wash
- moisturizers and lip balms
- laundry/dishwasher detergents and dishwashing liquids (including fabric softeners and scent crystals)
- contact solution
- household cleaning products
- razor blades with moisturizing strips
- Some toilet paper and baby wipes
- Hand Soap (I carry soap with me in public because of bad reactions.)
Other Surprise Sources
Below are a few other items that you should look for that may not be labeled for soy:
- Liquid Smoke (Does eating barbecue make you sick?)
- New Cast Iron Pans (Can be seasoned with soybean oil).
- Plastic Bags and Bottles
- The actual cans and plastics in which foods are stored
- Pet Food
- Craft Materials (glue, paints, candle making kits, etc.)
- Soy ink (found in magazines, newspapers, packaging, wrapping paper, fabrics, desk calendars, etc.)
- Cardboard boxes (includes those file folders at work!)
- Carpets, Upholstery, Mattresses, and Cars
- Biodiesel fuels
- Soy dust from bakeries, the bulk bin aisle at the health food store, or shipyards.
Calling All Soyvivors: What have your experiences been with soy labeling? Leave your stories in the comments below!