Soy allergy is a common allergy among children. Approximately 0.4% of American children have a soy allergy. Most children outgrow their soy allergy by the age of 10.¹
Children with a soy allergy must avoid soy in all forms. This includes all soy products and where soy is listed as an ingredient.
How to Read a Label for Soy
Always read the entire ingredient label to look for the names of soy. Soy ingredients may be within the list of the ingredients. Or it could be listed in a “Contains: Soy” statement beneath the list of ingredients. This is required by the federal Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). Learn more about the U.S. food allergen labeling law.
FALCPA requires that all packaged foods regulated by the FDA must list "soy" clearly on the ingredient label if it contains soy*. Advisory statements such as “may contain soy” or “made in a facility with soy” are voluntary. Advisory statements are not required by any federal labeling law. Discuss with your doctor if you may eat products with these labels or if you should avoid them.
Did you know that edamame, miso and yuba all contain soy? The FDA food allergen label law requires foods to state if they contain a top 8 allergen such as soy. But, there are many foods and products that are not covered by the law, so it is still important to know how to read a label for soy ingredients. Products exempt from plain English labeling rules: (1) Foods that are not regulated by the FDA. (2) Cosmetics and personal care items. (3) Prescription and over-the-counter medications. (4) Toys, crafts and pet food. Download and print our Soy Allergy Avoidance List and Travel Cards to carry with you and share.
The following ingredients found on a label indicate the presence of soy protein. All labels should be read carefully before consuming a product, even if it has been used safely in the past.
Edamame (soybeans in pods)
Hydrolyzed soy protein
Kinako (roasted soybean flour)
Koya dofu (freeze dried tofu)
Okara (soy pulp)
Soy nut butter
Soy protein, soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate
Textured soy flour (TSF)
Textured soy protein (TSP)
Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
Yaki-dofu (grilled tofu)
Yuba (bean curd)
SOY IS SOMETIMES FOUND IN
Asian foods (e.g. Japanese, Chinese, Thai, etc.)
Hydrolyzed plant protein
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
However, if the product is an FDA regulated food, the word "Soy" must appear on the label.
SHOULD BE SAFE
These soy derivatives should be safe for most soy-allergic individuals:
*Soy oil (but avoid cold pressed, expeller pressed or extruded soybean oil)
*Vegetable oil derived from soy
**Lecithin: Products that are covered by the FDA labeling laws and contain soy lecithin as an ingredient must be labeled to state that they contain soy.
*Soy Oil and Soy Lecithin
Highly refined soy or soybean oil will not be labeled as a major allergen on an ingredient statement. There are clinical studies showing that highly refined oils can be safely eaten by food allergic individuals. This is because highly refined oils contain extremely small levels of allergenic protein.
However, people with soy allergy need to avoid any expeller pressed, extruded or cold pressed soy oil. These types of oil do contain soy protein and must be listed on the label as an allergen.
Soy lecithin contains a small amount of soy protein. For this reason, products containing soy lecithin will label those foods for the presence of soy. The amount of soy protein in soy lecithin is low enough that it usually does not result in an allergic reaction in most people allergic to soy.³
Check with your doctor about whether you need to avoid soy lecithin and soy oil.
Cross Reactivity: Do You Need to Avoid Foods Related to Soy?
Cross-reactivity occurs when the proteins in one food are similar to the proteins in another. When that happens, the body's immune system sees them as the same.
Soy is a legume. The legume family includes different beans, including peanuts and lentils. A common question that comes up for people with an allergy to one legume is whether they can eat other legumes. It turns out that 95% of individuals who are allergic to one legume can tolerate and eat other legumes. Many years ago, it was common to recommend avoidance of legumes, if allergic to another legume. This practice has been proven unnecessary.
Nutrition for a Soy-Free Diet
Soybeans provide one of the highest quality proteins in a child's diet. They also contain thiamin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, zinc and vitamin B6. Unless your child consumes large portions of soy, the small amounts of soy in processed foods do not supply a significant amount of these nutrients. A soy-restricted diet will not pose any nutritional risk if your child is eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, enriched and fortified grains, and tolerated sources of protein.
WHEN AVOIDING SOY
|SUGGESTED ALTERNATE SOURCES
(if not allergic)
|Protein, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Iron, Calcium, Zinc, Vitamin B6
||Increase other protein foods such as meat, fish, poultry, legumes, eggs,
dairy (if safe for your child);
fruit, vegetables, leafy greens and enriched grains
Soy Substitutions in Recipes
Soy is a common ingredient in foods in the US. Rice-based and coconut-based alternatives are available if you need to avoid cow's milk and soy. Whole soy beans (edamame) can be replaced with other beans (fava, garbanzo).
Learn more about using SOY SUBSTITUTES.
Over 1,100 soy-free recipes are available in KFA's Safe Eats™ Recipes. Search for Soy-Free Recipes
1. American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Soy Allergy. Retrieved online on August 22, 2014 from http://www.acaai.org/allergist/allergies/Types/food-allergies/types/Pages/soy-allergy.aspx.
2. Awazuhara, Kawai, Baba, Matsui and Komiyama. (1998). Antigenicity of the proteins in soy lecithin and soy oil in soybean allergy. Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 28: 1559–1564.
3. Food Allergy Research and Resource Program. Soybeans and Soy Lecithin. Retrieved online on August 22, 2014 from http://farrp.unl.edu/resources/gi-fas/opinion-and-summaries/soy-lecithin
Medical review February 2015.