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Soy Allergy Avoidance

The Asthma Center, Allergic Disease Associates, P.C.
Professional Arts Building
205 North Broad Street, Ste 300
Philadelphia, PA 19107


Allergy to soy protein is very common in infants and young children. Soy-allergic individuals should avoid all sources of soy protein. Soybean oil and soy lecithin are usually allowed in the diet because soy proteins are usually removed in the processing. Although a rich source of protein, soybeans are not a primary source of any one nutrient in the United States diet, and therefore soybean-avoidance diets pose little nutritional risk for the individual. Unfortunately, soybean and soy products appear in small amounts in a number of commercial foods, making soy avoidance challenging. Soybeans do provide calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, riboflavin, vitamin B6, zinc, and protein. The amount of soy and the nutrients from soy in any given commercial product is therefore small. However, the cumulative effect of elimination of many commercial food products from the diet may put the soy-sensitive individual at general nutritional risk.

Consulting a registered nutritionist may be important. Reviewing nutritional deficiencies of the soy-free diet through online services from the Food and Nutrition Information Center ( may also be helpful.Individuals who are soy-sensitive need not avoid other legumes since there is very little cross-reactivity among the different legumes, unless otherwise indicated. Products that are labeled "Kosher for Passover" (a seasonal Jewish holiday in late March through April) do not have soy products in them and are safe for soy-sensitive individuals.

Ingredient Terms that Indicate or May Indicate the Presence of Soy
The following list shows a partial list of terms commonly used on food labels to indicate the presence of soy. This list should be distributed to any caregiver, relatives or food service workers who will be providing food to the soy-allergic individual. Individuals on soy-avoidance diets should avoid all foods containing these ingredients.

Ingredient Terms that Indicate the Presence of Soy

  • Hydrolized soy protein
  • Soy (listed as soy, albumin, Soy sauce Hydrolized vegetable protein flour, grits, nut, milk, Tamari Miso panthetol, or sprouts)
  • Tempeh Shoyu sauce
  • Soybean (granules, curd, oil)
  • Textured vegetable Soy protein (concentrate, isolate) protein (TVP)
  • Tofu

Ingredient Terms that May Indicate the Presence of Soy

  • Arabic gum
  • Lecithin
  • Thickener Bulking gum
  • MSG (monosodiumVegetable broth Carobglutamate)
  • Vegetable gum Emulsifier
  • Natural flavoring
  • Vegetable starch
  • Guar gum
  • Protein extender
  • Hydrolyzed plant protein
  • Stabilizer

Hidden Sources of Soy
Soy is used as a flavor enhancer in many commercial foods. Soy-sensitive individuals should be aware that vegetable broth, vegetable gum, vegetable starch, and natural flavorings may all contain soy. In addition, many milk and corn products such as cereals are now processed with soy. The possibility of allergic reaction to soy through kissing has also been reported and is usually not thought of by people with soy allergies.

Teenagers and young adults may be particularly at risk during dating to this hidden contact source.Individuals of any age, though, should be aware of this vulnerability.

Pet food may also contain protein from soy.

For children and adults extremely sensitive to soy, even trace amounts of soy exposure from animal saliva may cause a reaction.

The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network
Information regarding soy-free diets, recipes, and cooking, is available through the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), a non-profit lay organization based in Fairfax, Virginia.FAAN also provides a convenient, laminated wallet-size chart that delineates how to read a food label for a soy-free diet.Their phone number is 1-800-929-4040, and their website is

What Consumers Can Do to Help Identify Allergens
If a consumer finds that a product causes a reaction, besides discussing it with your physician, please notify the manufacturer and notify the local FDA consumer complaint coordinator (the following provides a list of phone numbers:

In addition, consumers should continue to provide input about concerns and suggestions for allergen labeling issues by e-mailing comments to and noting Docket 00P-1322.

Printed with permission from The Asthma Center, copyright 2008