Adventitious Presence of Soy in Grain Products

February 12, 2013, Ottawa: The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada are advising manufacturers and importers of grain-based products that precautionary labelling for soy is not required on these products when a low level of soy is present due to adventitious presence. Health risk assessments have determined that the low levels of soy due to adventitious presence would not be expected to cause an allergic reaction in the soy allergic community.

Since 2009-2010, the CFIA has been conducting targeted surveys for undeclared allergens aimed at evaluating various foods for specific hazards. The main objective of these surveys is to obtain baseline information regarding the presence and levels of possible undeclared allergens, including soy, in grain-based products. Results of the surveys for soy have demonstrated the low level presence of soy in some grain-based foods. Based on the low levels of soy that have been detected, Health Canada has determined that exposure is not likely to represent a health risk for soy allergic individuals.

The adventitious presence of soy in cereal grains can occur due to the manner by which soy and other grains, such as wheat, are grown, harvested, stored and transported. This adventitious presence is not unique to soy, but can occur with other cereal grains and is reflected in the current grain grading standards for quality.

As with all findings of undeclared allergens, the CFIA follows up with the manufacturer or importer, and appropriate action is taken if a non-compliance is found or the situation is determined to pose a significant health risk to Canadian consumers. This may include a request for corrective actions, label changes and/or product recall. If the product is found to have undeclared soy due to adventitious presence, and the situation is unlikely to pose a health risk (Health Risk Determination, Category 3), the CFIA will not be taking any additional action at this time.

The CFIA, together with Health Canada, is advising the food industry that precautionary labelling for soy ('may contain soy') in grain-based products, unless warranted by specific concerns regarding allergen controls or possible cross contamination at the manufacturing level, is not required as it is not expected to be of benefit to the soy allergic community.

Industry continues to be responsible for the safety and compliance of the foods that they manufacture, import and/or sell in Canada and the CFIA expects that industry will take appropriate steps to ensure that these expectations are met.

Additional information on soy allergen can be found on the Health Canada website.

For more information on adventitous presence of soy, please email the CFIA Imported and Manufactured Food Program.

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