Hidden Food Allergens & Soy Allergies

Posted 5.11.10 | Mallory West

Food allergens can be disguised by alternate names and hidden in the long words of an ingredient list. Unless you know what words to look for, it’s easy to overlook an allergen. As parents of children with food allergies, you all know how serious such an oversight can be. This month, we are doing a blog series on hidden food allergens to help you recognize hidden ingredients so that this doesn’t happen to you and your little one.

Hidden Sources of Soy:

Last week, Nita discussed hidden names and sources of dairy. Today, we’ll focus on soy. Soy is especially tricky to avoid because it is often found in unexpected places such as in baked goods, cereals, crackers, infant formula, canned tuna, prepared meats (like sausage and lunch meats), sauces and soups. In fact, soy is found in an estimated 60% of processed foods! Therefore, if your child is allergic to soy, it’s incredibly important to always read and decipher food labels. Kids with Food Allergies (KFA) provides a great list of “Ingredients to Avoid”. It may be helpful to print this out, laminate it, and take it along to the grocery store as a guide. They also have a travel card that you can take along on trips, when dining out, etc.

Soy Oil:

Refined soy oil is usually safe for patients with soy allergies. The FDA exempts refined soybean oil from being labeled as an allergen. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider to determine what’s appropriate for your child. It’s important to note that not all soy oil is refined so unless it is specified as such, you should not assume it is safe. For example, some hypoallergenic formulas contain refined soy oil, which undergoes a purification process that removes soy protein. The end product should be safe for patients with soy protein allergies. Soy oil described as cold pressed”, “expeller pressed”, or “extruded” is not safe for those with soy allergies. (Note: In the US, Neocate products do not use soy oil.)

Managing a Soy Allergy:

Deciphering labels can be time-consuming and avoiding soy may seem to limit your child’s diet drastically. However, there are still many soy-free food options and plenty of soy substitutions for recipes. The main food limitations are with processed foods, which we could all probably use less of in our diets anyways! Plus, research shows that half of kids grow out of their soy allergy by the age of 7[1].

I must say, I was most shocked by the fact that soy is in canned tuna! Have you come across any other surprising hidden food allergens?


[1] Kaeding AJ, Matsui EC, Savage JH, Wood RA. The natural history of soy allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010 Mar;125(3):683-6.

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About Us

Food Allergy Living is a resource for parents of children with food allergies, brought to you by Nutricia, the makers of Neocate. For more in-depth information about our purpose & authors, see our About Food Allergy Living page.