Soya is one of the 14 allergens that require listing in food products. These are the food allergens currently defined as being most likely to cause an allergic or intolerant reaction.
As I mentioned in my last blog, soya is a legume. So it’s in the same plant family as peanuts and lupin, 2 other listed food allergens. The Foods Standard Agency (FSA) has produced this very useful information sheet about the 14 EU listed allergens.
Another excellent fact sheet from the FSA advises that most children will grow out of their allergy to soya by the time they are 5. Reassuring for the majority of parents but less so for children and adults that continue to be impacted by the foods.
As I found out when developing my recipes avoiding many soya products was clear and relatively simple. There are often other options, such as sunflower spread, coconut milk, etc. that are easy to find. It’s just a matter of finding the product that best meets your taste and needs.
But soya is also found in foodstuffs where you might not expect it. The UK Anaphylaxis Campaign sums this up succinctly:
‘Soya (also known as soy) is a common ingredient in many foods. The beans are ground to make soya flour, which is often found in bread and baked goods, including some baked bean products. Soya flour can be processed further to make Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP).
Soybeans are fermented to produce tofu, which may itself be used in vegetarian prepared foods. Another fermented product is soy sauce. Soya oil is produced and may be found in some margarines and spreads as well as in oil. In addition, soya is an ingredient in many processed foods, usually as soya lecithin or soya concentrate or isolated soya protein, where it is used as an emulsifier or stabiliser.’
What to do if you are concerned
Here is a clear checklist within an article by strength and sunshine that might help you to know where soya could be found. Take a version of this, or something like it, when shopping or eating out.
The Anaphylaxis Campaign document contains a wealth of helpful information that I believe would be worth reading if you have problems with soya. It also provides some ‘key messages’ to help cope with and address your problems:
- Always be vigilant when food is around
- Check food labels
- Seek advice from a dietician or nutritionist on suitable soya alternatives to ensure that you are getting sufficient nutrients, particularly if you follow a vegan diet
- Be proactive when eating out
- Carry prescribed medication everywhere
- Learn how and when to use your adrenaline auto-injector
- Ensure that asthma is well managed
NB: It seems to me that these would be helpful for people who have any food allergy.
Soya lecithin, what’s it all about?
When I started developing recipes for bakeit freefrom I was aware that I couldn’t use either soya milk or spreads. So far so easy. The flour blend that I use doesn’t contain soya, so again a confidence boost and I thought I had this food allergen sorted. Wrong, Maggie, wrong, yet again! Hmm, there is something of a theme developing here…
I found that soya lecithin was used in just about every chocolate bar I looked at. Remember this was 5 or so years ago and the availability of foods that addressed allergens was much less than it is today. The knowledge about allergies and the range of products now available to address needs developed in that short time is quite incredible.
Lecithin in chocolate helps stop the fat (cocoa butter) from separating from the cocoa solids, or milk when it’s used. It helps to give chocolate the smooth finish that we all enjoy.
Is lecithin needed?
One can now find chocolate goodies that use sunflower lecithin rather than the more common soya version. But they are still rare. A popular and readily available brand is Moo Free. Their delicious sweeties are dairy free, gluten free and vegan. They also use sunflower lecithin.
I couldn’t find chocolate made with anything other than soya lecithin when I was starting out. This had me stumped for a while because I was desperate for a premium chocolate cake in our range. To achieve that quality I felt I needed to use bar chocolate and not cocoa powder.
But continued research showed me that, as I was not selling chocolate bars, lecithin was not really needed. I didn’t need the smooth finish it enabled.
bakeit freefrom and soya free chocolate
Instead, I developed a chocolate that was perfect for our uses from just 3 ingredients. We now make our own, high quality, organic and natural chocolate from organic raw cacao mass, organic agave syrup and organic vanilla extract.
It is a wonderful product with rich flavours of black cherry and is not too sweet. I actually like to eat it as my chocolate of choice. To me the quality and flavour offset the lack of a satisfying ‘snap’ when broken. Not that I’m giving up on this aim – I have many plans for using our chocolate in future bakeit freefrom products… watch this space!
Back to our current product range. You will find our organic dark chocolate used in our Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes and Sandwich Cake kits. Perfect for indulgent times with family or friends. And so easy to bake that you can leave it to your young people to have fun.
So, soya is done, for now. It will return when I go on to talk about lupin. I’m going to write about sulphite allergy next time.
If you have any ideas about a blog topic that you would like me to cover, or would like to comment on this blog then please do get in touch. I would genuinely like to hear from you.
Until the next time, wishing you every happiness and success.