Saturday, December 26, 2009

Excess Iodine Prompts International Bonsoy Soy Milk Recall

Ten Australians in New South Wales Develop Thyroid Problems After Drinking Bonsoy
(Updated December 26, 2009 with additional recall details.)

Bonsoy Soy Milk has been linked to at least ten instances of thyroid problems. One of the victims is a newborn, whose mother drank Bonsoy milk during her pregnancy. The soy milk was found to contain excessive amounts of iodine.

All 1-litre TetraPak cartons of Bonsoy Soy Milk labeled with the APN/EAN/TUN Number: 9312336049037 and Best Before dates up to and including 03.11.11 have been recalled. Bonsoy was distributed in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. The recalled soy milk was sold throughout Australia in Coles, Woolworths/Safeway, Metcash, Health Food Shops and cafes.

According to Victoria health authorities, daily consumption of as little as 5mL (for a child) or 30mL (for an adult) of Bonsoy milk would exceed the recommended daily intake of iodine.

What is iodine and why is it important?
Iodine is a naturally occurring mineral that is necessary to the function of the thyroid gland. This gland regulates our metabolism. Too much or too little iodine in the diet can disturb the normal operation of the thyroid gland, resulting in hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).

An overactive thyroid produces symptoms such as palpitations, weight loss and fatigue. Hypothyroidism – a condition to which babies appear more susceptible and which is more difficult to detect – can result in fatigue, weight gain and mental clouding.

We need only very small amounts of iodine to ensure correct functioning of the thyroid. It is found most commonly in seawater and seafood, particularly in kelp (seaweed). Often, table salt is iodine-fortified to ensure its presence in the daily diet.

What is Bonsoy, and why did it contain excess iodine?
Bonsoy is a soy milk that is distributed in Australia and New Zealand by Spiral Foods Pty Ltd., a Victoria-based self-proclaimed organic food company. Spiral Foods, which is a distributor of domestic and imported specialty food products, describes Bonsoy thus:
"Bonsoy has a Natural, full bodied mellow aroma and a subtle, mildly sweet flavour. Made from a selected variety of soybeans and processed to a unique and original Japanese recipe."

"What we mean by a "traditional recipe" is that soy and grain give a complete protein profile. Kombu (sea-veg), known for its mineral content, is also used when beans are consumed. Job's tears (also known as Hato Mugi) is held in high regard in Chinese medicine for its properties. These ingredients form the corner stone of a "traditional recipe" in that all these products work together not only for taste and texture but also for nutrition."

The iodine in Bonsoy derives from Kombu, a common variety of edible seaweed, much used in Japanese cuisine. The level of iodine in any given batch of Kombu will vary, depending mainly on the iodine content of the seawater where the Kombu grew and, to some extent, the way in which the seaweed was processed and handled after harvest.

So far this year, three separate food alert notifications have been issued by European Union countries due to excessive iodine in seaweed or sea algae from Japan – in January, in April, and in August.

Where was Bonsoy manufactured, and where else is it sold?
Neither the Spiral Foods web site nor the Food Standards Australia recall notice states whether Bonsoy Soy Milk is manufactured in Australia or elsewhere (perhaps Japan). And while the recall notice mentions overseas distribution to New Zealand only, we already have learned that some of the Bonsoy milk was imported into Hong Kong. Distribution of the recalled milk elsewhere in the region would not be surprising.

What should consumers do?
Stop using Bonsoy Soy Milk immediately. Discard any remaining product, or return it to your retailer for a refund. If you are experiencing any unusual symptoms, such as fatigue, or unusual weight loss or weight gain, seek immediate medical attention.

If you live outside of Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong and you encounter Bonsoy Soy Milk for sale, please advise your local health authorities – and either email me directly or post a comment at the end of this article to warn other eFoodAlert readers.


  1. me too.. i loved it and miss it :(

  2. I was a regular drinker of Bonsoy and interestingly was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism in early 2009. I had 6 times the normal levels of iodine in my body and neither my specialist or I could determine a I know the cause!!!

  3. I was a long term user and had a thyrotoxic episode a few years ago and am still recovering. I hope it does not put people off alternatives to cows milk that stuff almost killed me as akid with allergies and URTI's

  4. Thanks to all of you for sharing your experiences.


  5. I have just had a CT scan on my thyroid today after drinking Bonsoy for 6 months or so in my coffee. Normal levels of the thyroid hormone is less than 20. My level is 38.4. I now have to take two different tablets a day followed by monthly check ups and tests.

  6. @Kristie. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. Best wishes for a speedy and full recovery.


  7. thanks Kristie – finally someone providing concrete info, and helping others understand what to look for. I'm based in Singapore, where it's going to be hard to get info and support, so I'm very grateful for your post. kath

  8. I drank Bonsoy for over 5 years and can attest that my iodine levels are at normal range the entire time. I have had my iodine levels tested in the past 1-2 years regularly because of hereditary hypothyroidism (my sisters and female cousins all have it). So it seems the Bonsoy has had NO EFFECT on my physiology. It's the best quality, no added refined sugars and no gloopy chalky residue. I'll be buying it again as soon as it becomes available.

  9. If we're going to get excited by Iodine levels, then we should really look at the substantial evidence of Iodine levels in local water supply and it's effects on health - as referenced by this scientific study in Denmark, with references to studies in Australia -
    A study
    from Australia found seasonal fluctuations in iodine
    content of the water supply (3–10 mg/l) correlating to
    fluctuations in goitre frequency. The variations were
    possibly due to dilution of water reservoirs with melted
    snow at spring time (17).
    17 Hales I, Reeve T, Myhill J & Dowda K. Goitre: seasonal fluctuations
    in New South Wales. Medical Journal of Australia 1969 1 378–

  10. I loved Bonsoy and had it every day for about two years, didn't notice anything wrong, I also used it for cooking and I wish they would bring it back without the kebu stuff...There is no other soy milk that compares on the market.

  11. I was diagnosed with hyperthyroid in early 2009 and I had just started buying cases of bonsoy. I'm sure it was the bonsoy.

  12. I have been diagnosed as sub-clinical hyperthyroid with multi-nodular goitre (luckily not cancerous) but got told by my endocronologist that it is most likely to be caused by bonsoy in my coffee for the last 6 months of last year. I called the cafe - they denied ever having it - but i'm sure they did. I called my weekend cafe - they denied ever having it but a food reviewer had said they did have it in Aug 09. I feel completely ripped off that now cafe's will lie about it when it could help me understand why I now need a thyroidectomy and pills for the rest of my life. :(

  13. @Anonymous. Thank you for sharing your story.



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