Thursday, March 18, 2010

Australia's Bonsoy Thyroid Cases: 30+ And Counting

OzFoodNet continues to monitor reports of new cases

More than 30 consumers of Bonsoy Soy Milk have experienced thyroid trouble, according to Lydia Buchtman of Food Safety Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). And the number of victims is likely to increase, as medical practitioners feed more information into the national reporting system that OzFoodNet has set up to track Bonsoy-related illnesses.

Bonsoy Soy Milk was the subject of an international recall in December 2009, after a doctor in New South Wales reported that 10 thyroid patients were regular consumers of the milk substitute. Lab analysis determined that Bonsoy contained levels of naturally occurring iodine that were well in excess of safe levels.

The iodine levels were traced to kombu, a seaweed that is part of the Bonsoy formula. Bonsoy is manufactured in Japan by Muso Co. Ltd. Spiral Foods Pty. Ltd. imports and distributes the product in Australia. The companies are working to reformulate Bonsoy Soy Milk without using kombu.

Before Bonsoy can return to the Australian market, the Australian government will insist on testing the new formula for safe iodine levels.

Lest anyone think that this is a tempest in teapot, even footballer Will Minson was knocked flat by his love of Bonsoy. And readers of eFoodAlert have continued to post comments about their own health experiences.

A reader reported the following on March 8th:
I have been diagnosed as sub-clinical hyperthyroid with multi-nodular goitre (luckily not cancerous) but got told by my endocrinologist 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. :(

And on March 10th, another reader posted this comment:
I was a regular bonsoy drinker (300-500mls /day) and have been unwell since mid-December. My main symptoms have been extreme fatigue, fuzzy vision, bouts of nausea and changes in my mood. My blood tests show an issue with my thyroid.

I am usually a very fit and able 27 year old and eat very healthily. I went to have an x-ray today and the radiologist asked if I was a bonsoy drinker. I said "yes, but wouldn't that be out of my system by now. How could it be related to my current thyroid problems?" to which he responded "you're not the first one." I was shocked, hence came home and did a quick google search and found this blog. I get the results tomorrow morning as to whether I have under/over active thyroid.

Suggest anyone else who has been seriously lethargic / generally feeling unwell to have their thyroid checked out asap.

A follow-up from the March 10th contributor, added the next day:
Update on above from March 10 blog. I received a call from my physician and it is clear that I have recovering thyroiditis. Although I don't need medication, thankfully, I need to make some strict diet changes and my specialist is very eager to discuss my bonsoy drinking history.

I am very surprised that there has not been a wider circulation of the potential ill effects of bonsoy more recently, as most of the press was focused on those feeling unwell at the time of the recall, rather than those with ongoing symptoms.

This needs to be brought to the attention of others, who were bonsoy drinkers and have ongoing chronic fatigue like symptoms. The amount of time, worry and money I and presumably others above have gone through in resolving this, that may have been avoidable to some extent had we known of the severity and lasting effects of this potential problem, should not be experienced by others.

Bonsoy Soy Milk was recalled in Australia on December 24, 2009. Although FSANZ notified all restaurant and catering associations, at least two cafés in New South Wales chose to continue serving the recalled product. The New South Wales Food Authority is dealing with those cases.

Make no mistake. Reformulated Bonsoy is not yet available. Any Bonsoy Soy Milk that is in cafés, on store shelves, or in your homes may contain high levels of iodine and must not be consumed.

Once the reformulated Bonsoy has been confirmed by the Australian government to contain safe levels of iodine, Food Safety Australia will announce its clearance for sale and, at the same time, will publish the revised total of thyroid cases that were linked to consumption of the original formula.

Meanwhile, I encourage anyone who was a regular Bonsoy consumer and who has been experiencing chronic fatigue or any other symptoms that are consistent with thyroid dysfunction to consult a doctor without delay.

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  1. Hi Phyllis, you may be interested in a site I have started specifically related to this issue, and my quest for justice (via legal action at this stage) -

    Thanks for your good work,

  2. @Tim: Good luck with your site. I'm sure that other Bonsoy victims will find it useful. Please keep me posted on your progress.


  3. I drank Bonsoy daily for about 6 months. I started to feel extremely tired, numerous headaches, extremely tender breasts, weight gain and vision problems. I went to the doctor and asked if the sore breasts could be caused by drinking soy milk with the phyto-oestrogens which she disagreed with. Nevertheless, she sent me for a thyroid examinations and it was discovered that I have a hypothyroid, and a multi-nodular one. Not sure if it is the result of the Bonsoy but occurred during the period I was drinking it. I mentioned the recall at a later appointment to my doctor but she seemed unconcerned.

  4. @Anonymous. Thank you for sharing your story. I am convinced that there are many related cases of thyroid dysfunction that were not reported to the state or national health authorities. The official tally is 38 (see

    I hope that you make a full and speedy recovery.


  5. I was drinking Bonsoy for about six months trying to lower my cholestrol level and ristricting fatty food from my diet including dairy milk,I also increased my phisical excercise.
    I was diagnosed with dysfucntional thyroid when I had my second blood test for cholestrol level.
    These are the symtoms I had before and after I stopped drinking Bonsoy: Fatigue (I thought I was developing chronic fatigue syndrome,I could not get out of bed some mornings):Mood change: Dizziness: and scariest of all was heart flutter:
    I'm also surprised that the doctors and clincs where I was treated did not tell me about Bonsoy.


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