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‘May contain soy’ labels not required

Canada’s processors and importers of “grain-based” products don’t need to resort to precautionary labels on their wares if a low level of soy has made its way into the grain.

In a notice to the industry Feb. 13, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) advised that such labels aren’t required in cases where “a low level of soy is present due to adventitious presence.”

The agri-food industry term “adventitious presence” refers to unintentional or incidental trace levels of a type of seed, grain or food product in another.

“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,” the agency said.

CFIA based that conclusion on surveys it’s run since 2009 for undeclared allergens, meant to evaluate various foods for specific hazards and gather baseline data on the presence and levels of such allergens, soy included.

Results of those surveys for soy have turned up the low-level presence of soy in some grain-based foods, CFIA said, but “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.”

Thus, precautionary labels would only be required if warranted by “specific concerns regarding allergen controls or possible cross-contamination at the manufacturing level.”

Adventitious presence of soy in cereal grains can happen given the ways in which soy and other grains, such as wheat, are grown, harvested, stored and shipped. Such a situation isn’t unique to soy, but can happen with other cereal grains and is reflected in current grain quality grading standards, CFIA said.

Typically when undeclared allergens turn up in foods, CFIA follows up with the foods’ manufacturer or importer and “appropriate action” follows when non-compliance is found or the specific case poses a significant health risk to Canadian consumers. Corrective actions, label changes and/or product recalls are then ordered.

However, if a product is found to have undeclared soy due to adventitious presence, the given situation is “unlikely to pose a health risk,” CFIA said.

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