Tuesday, December 29, 2009

UK Food Standards Agency Issues Bonsoy Warning

Australia Alerts Other Countries To Iodine Problem

Today, the UK Food Standards Agency released the following warning statement:

"Food safety authorities in Australia and New Zealand have informed the Food Standards Agency about high levels of iodine in a soya drink called 'Bonsoy', which some people use as an alternative to milk. We are investigating the distribution of this product in the UK and will take action if necessary.

Nine adults and a child in New South Wales, Australia, have been diagnosed with thyroid problems and also reported drinking Bonsoy.

The Bonsoy packs affected by this problem have best before dates up to and including 3 November 2011 and are distributed in 1 litre Tetra Pack containers.

This soya drink is enriched with a seaweed product that naturally contains iodine. Iodine is an essential element required to create hormones for the thyroid, but higher levels than normal may affect the way the thyroid works. However, most healthy people will not be affected by any slight excess of iodine.

People who drink a lot of this product, including toddlers fed soya drinks as an alternative to milk, could be at risk. If you are at all concerned about drinking this brand of soya drink as your main alternative to milk, then you may wish to consider an alternative brand until our investigations are complete."

Clearly, the Australians are taking care to advise other countries of this serious health threat. I have to wonder why the New Zealand food safety authorities are being so slow to issue their own recall notice – especially as the Australian recall notice made it very clear that Bonsoy had was available in New Zealand as well as in Australia.

Meanwhile, in case anyone thinks that this is a tempest in a teapot, I received this communication yesterday from a new reader from New South Wales, Australia who asked to remain anonymous.

"Just reading your bonsoy recall note.

I had it with my cereal every morning and was diagnosed with thyrotoxicosis.I only caught the recall on the radio by accident. The recall was done Christmas eve with little publicity."

Thyrotoxicosis is also known as hyperthyroidism, and can be caused by ingesting too much iodine.

After browsing comments posted on various blog sites, I am highly doubtful that this problem is limited to the ten victims that have been acknowledged in Australian government news releases so far.

If you have been a regular consumer of Bonsoy Soy Milk and you would like to share your experience – good or bad – please post a comment or email me directly. I would especially appreciate hearing from Bonsoy consumers who live outside of New South Wales, Australia.


  1. Your correspondent mentions having hyPERthyroidism, but the child who was one of those recently diagnosed with thryoid problems who allegedly drank Bonsoy had hyPOthyroidism, the exact opposite.

    For some measure of balance to a case that is not yet resolved (and note that the 10 'victims' went to the same health care provider) read the following site: http://www.spiralfoods.com.au/main_frame.html

    I am not saying there is no problem, just that we do not know all the facts.

    I was a regular consumer of Bonsoy in small amounts in coffee but it is not available now so have switched. I knew it had kelp as an ingredient so it makes sense it had iodine. What about everyone who eats a lot of sushi or fish?? Would be curious to know the iodine levels in nori seaweed among other things.

  2. @Anonymous: Based on what I've read, excess iodine in the diet can cause either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. I don't know what determines which direction the effect takes. Perhaps other aspects of a person's genetic make-up or metabolism play a role.

    I imagine that the only reason this problem was detected is that a single health care provider happened to see a "cluster" of cases. From the comments I've received to my various posts, there are undoubtedly more than 10 cases.

    As for sushi, I would note that the amount of seaweed consumed would be a factor. How many people eat sushi daily, for example?

    For a survey of other Bonsoy comments (pro and con), please browse the Bonsoy posts on this site. There are quite a few comments appended to those.

    Thanks for visiting and for your thoughtful comments.


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