2012-2013 Soy in Pre-packaged Grain-based Products

Executive Summary

The Food Safety Action Plan (FSAP) aims to modernize and enhance Canada's food safety system. As part of the FSAP enhanced surveillance initiative, targeted surveys are used to evaluate various foods for specific hazards.

In Canada, and in other countries, as part of normal and long-standing agricultural practices, cereal grains are often grown in close proximity to other types of grains, oil seeds and pulses. In addition, these grains can be harvested, stored and transported using the same equipment and facilities. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to keep all traces of these different crops from getting mixed in with each other at low levels and may lead to the presence of soy protein in other grains such as wheat. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada have advised manufacturers and importers of grain-based products that precautionary labeling 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.

Soy may also be present in pre-packaged food products from cross contamination during manufacturing. This type of presence should be reviewed to ensure it is not an indicator of a breakdown in good manufacturing practices.

The main objectives of the soy in grain based foods survey were:

  • To obtain baseline information regarding the presence and levels of undeclared soy in single and multiple ingredient grain-based foods.
  • To identify potential food safety concerns relating to undeclared soy in grain based foods.

A variety of grain based foods were analysed for the presence of undeclared soy. The foods ranged from single ingredient foods such as flour and whole grains to multiple ingredient foods such as baked goods that contained whole and ground grains. The data collected provided general information around the presence and level of undeclared soy in both starting and finished products such as flours and breads, respectively. Of 368 samples tested, 124 (34%) contained undeclared soy. Wheat flour and baking mixes had the highest percentage of soy positives, 52% and 94%, respectively. Many of the baking mixes contained wheat flour as a primary ingredient.

All positive results were followed up by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Follow up action may involve a food safety investigation, including a health risk assessment conducted by Health Canada and a recall or one of the following: notification of manufacturer/importer and/or additional sampling.

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