Just tell me if there’s soy in it!

It is commonly stated that soybean oil doesn’t cause allergic reactions to people who are allergic to soy. I believe it was this study by the National Institute of Health in 1985 that is used as the basis to say that soybean oil doesn’t cause allergic reactions (urticaria, angioedema, wheezing, dyspnea, and/or vomiting) in people who are sensitive to soybeans. Oh, and that was 7 whole people they tested — the echelon of thoroughness.

If you visit the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), they say “Check with your doctor about whether you need to avoid soy lecithin and soy oil“.

Okay, so basically, soybean oil shouldn’t / most likely won’t / maybe could / but it all depends on you, cause an allergic reaction to somebody who is sensitive to soy, but why on earth has it become the standard for soybean oil to not even be considered soy? I ask you, what do they think soybean oil is made of?

If you review a food package, it will list at the bottom “CONTAINS: WHEAT, EGGS, DAIRY” or whatever potential allergen. But if that same product “merely” contains soybean oil, it doesn’t say that it “CONTAINS: SOY”. Just because it’s not supposed to cause an allergic reaction, SOYBEAN OIL is still to this day MADE OUT OF SOYBEANS.

If you review a restaurant’s allergen information, items are not marked as containing soy if they merely contain or are fried in soybean oil. Can’t we at least agree that SOYBEANS are one of the primary ingredients of SOYBEAN OIL.

Our son’s doctor told us to eliminate soybean oil in his diet. you cannot believe what kind of grief this has caused us in simply trying to figure out if foods contain soy. My first post-ICU adventure with a restaurant was buying KFC Chicken for my son because it was the only menu item in any restaurant near us that said it didn’t include soy. Imagine my total frustration to find out after he had eaten it that all KFC items are fried in soybean oil.

Regardless of what the expected reaction to soybean oil is, can’t the world be decent enough to admit that there’s SOY in SOYBEAN OIL?

******* Update since this was first written *******

I’ve posted an extremely non-scientific poll on this website (not that the original 7 person study could be called thorough, either). I’m seeing that a number of readers say they react to soybean oil. So I’ve discovered what the entire United States government was not able to figure out?

To answer a reader’s question as to “Why” they don’t list soybean oil, not to sound like a conspiritist (did I just make up a word?), I think it all boils down to the money. Soybean oil (from my research at the grocery store) is the cheapest oil out there. If that’s not the case, can somebody explain to me why “vegetable oil” is almost 100% of the time 100% soybean oil. Why not just sell it as soybean oil? Because it’s cheap, everybody wants to use it, and because of this bogus study in 1985, they use that as an excuse to not list soybean oil as an allergen, and therefore in their twisted logic, not even include it as an ingredient.

******* Update 11/26/2015 *******

Here’s the current results for the question “Do they react to soybean oil?”
Yes: 330
I Don’t know: 82
No: 35
(no response): 11

That really makes me doubt the National Institute of Health’s results.

I'm trying to track allergen information for every restaurant that we eat at. With my son's soy allergy, each time we eat at a restaurant, it can take up to 30 minutes to figure out what he can eat. Especially since most restaurants don't accurately represent their usage of soy.

We're tracking what soy free (including soybean oil free) foods our son can eat at all restaurants we go to. If you've got a soy allergy in your family and have any information you can share, please contact us.

17 thoughts on “Just tell me if there’s soy in it!”

  1. I feel your frustration, as I have 2 daughters, 1 who is allergic to soy, and both who are allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish. I often spend as much as 3 hours in the grocery store reading labels, as I’ve found out the hard way that everything can look exactly the same on the packaging, but the next day, another ingredient could be added onto your ‘staple’ food items. I also want them to try new things, so there I am reading the ingredient labels in the aisles, like I am in the library, having found a book from the shelf that I cannot put down. Thirty minutes is a very accurate amount of time spent at new restaurants, quizzing the wait staff, manager and cook/chef. I have gone to places like Olive Garden and having to walk back out again after finding out that only their plain lettuce doesn’t have soy in it, and there is a good chance it is cross-contaminated anyway, as everything else in the kitchen has soy in it. Thank you for your website – for taking the time and trouble to write everything down, so that others can benefit from your discoveries. Finding your website was like discovering an oasis in the middle of the desert.

  2. Hi Emi,
    You bring up a good point and a very important caution:

    “Just because something was soy-free last time, doesn’t mean it’s soy-free this time”.

    As companies get bought, recipes get updated, and cheaper ingredients get used, soy ends up creeping in everything. I remember the good old days that you could buy a chocolate bar without soy in it…. Now the most expensive chocolates are using soy lecithin.

    1. No wonder there are more allergies and cancer. I’m having an awful time finding something to eat. I can only eat what I cook. Soy is in everything.

  3. I remember when the big fad was “vegetable oil” b/c it was low in cholesterol, and had the word ‘vegetable’ in it. All they hype words were vegetable oil/cholesterol/heart disease/unsaturated fats. That was almost 20 years ago, and now absolutely everything is made with that damn vegetable oil! Thanks for your irreverently worded post, nice to feel I’m not alone in my frustration with the search for soy-free anything nowadays.

    1. The scariest part about a lot of these oils is the effort they have to go through to get the oil in the first place. When the creation of “food grade” oil involves the words “solvents” and “deodorizers”, I’m officially scared. If it’s that hard to get the oil out, maybe it doesn’t want to come out!

      Give me good old lard any day of the week!

  4. I just want to say thanks for making this site. Long story short my son has a soy allergy and its super hard for me to find food at places for him. Thanks again!

  5. I really appreciate your blog and this post. After my son was born and started experiencing a lot of GI distress, we eliminated a bunch of things including soy, and soy is definitely a bad trigger for him. I also discovered that I had my own soy allergy as a result of eliminating it from my diet and seeing many of my own GI issues disappear. And I learned that soy is present in so many prepared foods in hidden ingredients like natural flavors and any extracts. We are both sensitive to soybean oil and it’s always when we eat out somewhere where the ingredients are more or less unknown that the GI distress comes roaring back. Usually I find that it is a result of soybean oil.

    My husband had a tough time coming to terms with this because it was altering our lives quite a bit and he kept trying to show me info on how soybean oil is not supposed to cause a reaction, so I am grateful to people like you who have taken the time to debunk this widely held notion. Fortunately my husband is coming around to more of an understanding and trying to be accommodating and having resources like this to show him is extremely helpful. Thank you! And I totally agree about your last comment – our packaged food has become so questionably adulterated that people really shouldn’t be eating this stuff period.

  6. I’m actually at a restaurant right now where I asked about soy based products on their menu so I could stay away from them, and the waitress went to ask the manager and I was told not everything had soy in it and was referred to their allergen menu on their website…..low and behold their entire menu including their coffee and eggs was labeled as containing soy. I go places and ask but have no choice To eat in order to avoid conflict with everyone else, but end up having a crappy night due to getting sick afterwards…..

  7. Totally , absolutely 100% on point! I am allergic to soy and experience the same frustrations you describe. I get very nauseous when I eat soy and feel UGG afterward. People ask me if this is new. I don’t think so. I remember living on Pepto Bismal as a child. It is amazing how many people don’t believe you can be allergic to soy. It’s amazing how many companies fry in oil.

    Also, did you know that many Italian restaurants put their pasta in soy oil or have soy in their sauces?

    The world needs to wake up!

    1. Hi Sheri,
      Yeah, it seems like every Italian restaurant in the world adds soybean oil to the cooked pasta to keep it from sticking together. It lets them mostly-cook a bunch of pasta ahead of time and then heat it up before serving.

      Don’t even get me started on the pointlessness of soybean oil in pasta sauce.

  8. I would love to see the results of your survey on soybean oil. I had gone last year to a drive in theater. They seriously have the best fries ever. So I went all day without eating anything other than a bowl of plain oatmeal that morning with a mashed banana for sweetness. I ate the fries late that evening. Within about 15 minutes of eating the fries, I began itching. My hands, face, eyes, abdomen….all itching. I also ended up with a nasty case of the runs. My chest got heavy and I felt like it was taking a lot of effort to get a breath. When I went into the rest room, my face had huge hives…especially near the eyes.

    I took benedryl, which helped everything but the breathing. I waited that out…stupid, I know. My allergist says no way to the soybean oil that the fries were cooked in causing the issue…but what else could it have been? I had a blood test done and I am allergic to soy.

    Has your child ever had a reaction to soybean oil? Anyone else?

    1. Hi Dawn,
      Thanks for sharing your story with us, and to answer your question about my (extremely) informal survey on soybean oil, here’s where things stand at this point:

      Do they react to soybean oil?
      Yes 330
      I Don’t know 82
      No 35
      (no response) 11

      Makes me kind of doubt the National Institute of Health’s results

      1. JJ
        I am a missionary and came back from Africa in 2006. I found that many foods were causing major GI problems and it took a few years to narrow it down to SOY. As you all said, it is in almost everything, some hidden and some foods downed in it. My worst experience eating a breakfast skillet that the owner said had no soy ended up causing me to pass blood the next day. Some restaurants don’t care… Even more important about soy is that it has double the amount of fat as butter. it will “negate” thyroid meds, and will mess up woman’s hormones. The worst yet is that soybeans are GMO so that farmer can use Roundup (Monsanto) to keep the weeds down which is a carcinogenic. Cancer causing! This process is being used on corn and wheat too. Monsanto just got successfully sued for causing non-hodgkin’s lymphoma on the west coast. This is just the beginning of a big war that will be with big government as they are very much involved in forcing soy on us. Pray and fight to live!
        I eat mostly at home leaving out all salad dressings, mayo, many seasonings, almost all breads, some veggies, some chocolates…. I have lost some excess weight which is good but it is a major pain when we have to travel. If only the restaurant wouldn’t lie about their contents… Pepto Bismol is a good friend…

        Continue to fight the “good fight of faith”.

  9. I am so happy to find your site! My immune system crashed due to some meds I was taking and after months of basically starving myself by adding one food at a time we discovered it was soy and all that share the similar protein like banana and melon. Elastic products. Grocery shopping takes hours as you read labels and quality of life suffers. No fast food, junk food or restaurants. All food has to cooked and frozen. Healthier for sure. Peolpe stop asking and coming around. The only safe thing to eat at a restaurants is a lettuce wedge no dressing. I thought i was alone. It’s comforting to hear of other stories. Btw…my reaction isa burning rash on face, chest, back and upper arms.

  10. First of all thanks for your site, I hate to thank of the children that feel like I feel. It’s horrible. Soy makes me so sick. I am just turning against food. Doctors don’t even get it. Something must be done. Thanks again. It makes you feel like crying sometimes. Soy makes me so sick. I can only use corn and canola oil.

  11. Idk about the rest of you, but I was underweight before being diagnosed with soy allergy and avoiding all the junky foods has kept my weight going further down… I can’t express the looks I get from people when I try to explain “I’m allergic” to cake/99% of desserts. :-/

    Recently I went away on vacation and existed on Wasa crackers, beer and yogurt. It’s insane that the yogurt in chain drug stores is all pectin , natural flavors , guar gum etc.. ! I reach such a point of exhaustion I just throw in the towel and starve. Even my go-to order of beef patty on a plate can be contaminated if the grill uses/has used vegetable oil . My dad accidentally got me with an “olive oil spray” that upon further inspection “contains soy lecithin… It truly can be impossible to find food that is safe to eat.

  12. I think we should start a petition to have soybean oil listed as an allergen. If enough of us sign it, perhaps they’ll be forced to wake up and see that soybean oil is soy (duh, hence the name) and to list it as an allergen.
    We went through a horrible 2-3 months trying to find out what my little girl was allergic to. Turns out, it’s soy. I go to great lengths and at times, great expense to keep soy out of our diets (I’m nursing her). Even if I ingest a small amount of soy, she will screech and scream for hours. She doesn’t get the skin rash or trouble breathing, thank goodness, but the GI pain is bad enough. She has terrible reflux which we are treating and have been able to get down to once daily antacid instead of twice daily since I’ve cut out Soy.
    We just ate at Dairy Queen tonight. They fey everything in soybean oil. I could eat a hot dog, and have an ice cream (no cone) with chocolate (but not hot fudge) and caramel on it. The entire rest of the menu, except eggs and sausages were off the menu.
    And I agree! Why on earth would they use soybean oil instead of olive oil on Spaghetti! No self respecting Italian would use soybean oil. And don’t even get me started on using soybean oil instead of olive oil in hummus!

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