Calling companies about soy ingredients can be tough. Most of the folks that you will contact do not understand soy allergies and will need some help from you to get the answer you need.
First, mentally prepare yourself for a positive interaction. Try to see this as an opportunity to educate others about food allergies, and harness the power of your inner charm and kindness.
There are horror stories out there of companies that refuse to speak to anyone but a professional, but I have not had this experience after making dozens of phone calls. Be prepared that the answer you receive may not be the answer you were hoping for, but by calling, you have reminded another company that they need consider those of us with food allergies.
Your phone call could have a much greater impact than you could possibly know.
Next, find the company phone number along with the active and inactive ingredients for the product. Be prepared to mention specific ingredients that are of concern. I would recommend calling, because many companies do not want to provide written statements about allergens.
A note about prescription medications: you will need to get the name of the manufacturer from your prescription bottle or pharmacy. Your pharmacy or doctor may not be able to give you an accurate answer as to whether prescriptions contain soy, because many soy ingredients are not labeled. A pharmacist once told me that I had nothing to worry about, and I had a reaction days later.
You may also want to Google the product, but only review product information directly from the company. I have had many blogs and independent websites to recommend soy free products that were not actually soy free when contacting the company directly.
Think about how you want to introduce your situation clearly and concisely before you pick up the phone. You are welcome to borrow my statement:
“Hi, I am Alanna, and I have a serious allergy to soy. I see your ingredients here for _____ product, but many times soy isn’t listed even when the product contains soy. I need to know if your product contains ingredients that are derived from soy.”
For me, the word “derived” seems to be the magic word, especially when it comes to items like medications and beauty products.
DO NOT initially tell them about any reactions you have had to the product. You can do this after you get the information you need. If you tell them about reactions in the beginning, they may not give you any information because for fear of a lawsuit.
When you call, you may be presented with a few “phone tree” options. Do not choose the option to report an allergic reaction, but use the option that allows you to ask about ingredients or product information. If you are actually having a serious allergic reaction, seek medical treatment first and then call the company.
When you get someone on the phone, you need go ahead and tell them that you have already reviewed the ingredients. Otherwise, they are likely to give you a customer-friendly statement that basically says, “go read the ingredients…you don’t need me for that.” It’s not that they are trying to be rude, it’s that they really don’t understand why you can’t just go read the ingredients. You may also get a vague answer at first (“I don’t see anything in the ingredients”), and you may need to explain again that many soy ingredients are not going to be obvious, and reaffirm that you need to know if the ingredients were derived from soy. Feel free to mention specific ingredients at this point in the conversation.
Sometimes this will be enough to get the answer you need, but if not, every manufacturer has a chemist or a researcher that the rep will need to contact to get the answer. Tell them that you are willing to provide your contact information for a well-researched answer if they need more time.
Once I had someone that kept telling me that she did not have any information about the medication and would not forward my message to a researcher. I went straight to the company Facebook page and told them about the unwillingness of the rep to be helpful. I had a direct answer within minutes and found out that the product was soy free.
The final answer you get may be a clear “yes, this is soy free,” but it may be much more vague. I get two common answers. The first is:
“While we do not intentionally add soy to this product, we do not test the final product to see if it is soy free.”
You will need to make an informed decision based on advice from your doctor if you are willing to take a chance on the product.
The other statement I get is much more troubling.
“While we will be happy to provide you with an ingredient list, there is no way to determine where our ingredients are derived from, because we have many distributors that use differing sources.”
When I hear this statement, it basically says to me that they have no idea what is in their product and I steer clear of anything they make. You will unfortunately get this statement a lot with beauty and household products.
The reason why this is so troubling to me is that we are turning our bodies over to folks that are filling our bodies full of unknown substances that could be harmful. No thank you!
I hope you find this to be helpful, and I hope that you will be successful in finding soy free products for your needs. Just remember that even if you get an answer that is difficult to hear, you have raised awareness for your allergy and are making the world a safer, better place by being a food allergy advocate. Visit my Allergy Friendly Store for product ideas, but again, I always encourage everyone to do independent research to find the product that is right for them.
Calling All Soyvivors: What Other Tips Do You Have for Successful Phone Calls? Please leave tips in the comments below!