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Soy Allergies: Spotting Problems on Food Labels

With a food allergy, it’s always important for you to know what you’re eating. Reading labels is your best way to stay safe. Here are tips for spying out food allergens.

Any packaged food has to show on the label if it contains milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or soybeans. Look on both the food label -- "Contains: Soy" -- and the ingredients list. The FDA does not consider highly refined soybean oil an allergen (found in many processed foods). Check with your doctor about whether or not you should avoid soybean oil.

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Soy Words to Watch For

  • Edamame
  • Kinako flour
  • Kyodofu (freeze-dried tofu)
  • Lecithin (sometimes in cooking sprays)
  • Miso
  • Mono diglyceride
  • Natto
  • Okara (soy pulp)
  • Shoyu
  • Soy or soybean or any soy product
  • Soy sauce
  • Soya
  • Supro
  • Tamari
  • Tempeh
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Textured soy flour (TSF)
  • Textured soy protein (TSP)
  • Textured vegetable protein
  • Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • Tofu
  • Yakidofu
  • Yuba

Where Soy Hides

  • Baked goods, which may use soybean flour
  • Vegetable oil
  • Vitamin E
  • Meat products, such as sausages and hamburgers
  • Meat substitutes
  • Protein bars
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Tamari sauce
  • Imitation bacon bits
  • Baby foods and cereals
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Frozen dinners
  • Ice cream
  • Canned broth and soups
  • Canned tuna
  • Low-fat peanut butter
  • Salad dressings, mayonnaise, gravy, and sauces
  • Some snack foods

How to Choose Safe Foods

  • Stick with packaged and labeled foods. Foods from salad bars, deli counters, and bakeries are more likely to accidentally contain your allergy triggers.
  • Read food labels every time you buy a product -- even if it's something you buy every week. Food manufacturers change ingredients all the time. A food that has been safe for you and your family may not always be.
  • If you see an ingredient you're not sure about, be careful. Look it up first. Consider contacting the manufacturer if you need more info.
  • Buying a different size or low-fat version? Read food labels. Low-fat or reduced-calorie versions of familiar foods may have very different ingredients. Sizing (like snack-sized packs) or packaging (a can vs. a carton) can affect ingredients. Some products may have different ingredients in different parts of the country.
  • Check labels on medications and toiletries. Food allergens can show up in drugs, cosmetics, shampoos, soaps, and lotions.
  • Do ask and tell. At restaurants, let the staff, servers, managers, cooks, or chef know about your food allergy and special accommodations that you might need. Don’t be afraid to ask how a dish is prepared. Sometimes, it can be hard to tell everything that is in a dish based on how it is listed on the menu.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on October 30, 2014

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