Finally, in a surprising unprecedented move, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has revoked authorization for claims that soy protein or any soy-based product has the capacity to reduce heart disease.
The landmark announcement is said to currently affect about 300 products in the U.S. which includes tofu and soy milk, among other foods. The FDA started releasing health recommendations like the soy issue since 1990 and have authorized claims on 12 other foods.
However, this is the “first time” that the FDA had revoked a previously issued health claim. As we at the Dr. Farrah Agustin-Bunch Natural Medical Center have been propounding since we started catering to patients of cancer and other debilitating chronic diseases, soy has been linked to cancer- causing elements since this particular crop was genetically engineered by Monsanto decades ago! Unfortunately, soy has been used in various products – including soy milk that is widely used by a wide range of vegetarians and lactose-intolerant consumers.
The FDA, according to its statement, has asserted that based on heart health evidence they have compiled, have come to the conclusion that the existing evidence on soy linking it to better heart health is now insufficient. Previous research done by the Agency in 2005 and 2007 discovered that soy does not have much impact on reduction of cholesterol.
Susan Mayne, Director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, asserted that based on the evidence they have gathered, they have concluded that the link between soy protein and heart disease did not meet the rigorous standards of the FDA for an authorized health claim. This is definitely a complete 360-degree turn on the FDA’s stand on soy’s health benefits and a complete validation of what the anti-soy movement, including us, have been fighting against for so long! Based on current FDA guidelines, the FDA will allow a minimum of 75 days for industry people, agencies and soy-related businesses to respond to the new ruling. Until then the ruling still stands and producers may continue to print their claims.
The FDA also said that it would allow “qualified health claims”, a lower level of scientific standard, provided that such manufacturers explain the limited evidence supporting such claims on heart health on their labels. In this case, product manufacturers would have to send their petition to the FDA on an individual basis as to the language they intend to use or continue to use on those health claims so as not to mislead consumers. Such claims will also be approved or disapproved on a case-to- case basis.
A nutritionist from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Ms. Bonnie Liebman, asserted that the only heart health benefits she knows is to eliminate the red meat from a person’s diet and not the supposed benefits of soy to heart health. Definitely the soy industry is expected to fight back against this ruling proposal. Soy’s heart benefits claims are not invalidated and still being published in a dozen or more countries including Canada. The soy products industry accounts for about US$4.5 billion worldwide and is a staple food product for vegetarians and health-conscious people. This labeling change may impact the soy-based industry alone by about US$370,000-860,000 in costs, according to the FDA.
The controversy regarding soy is linked to studies that it may aggravate or lead to breast cancer, despite claims that over 35 studies worldwide were found to reveal that soy does not cause cancer. One U.K.- based study found that soy may actually lower the risks of cancer. However, we at the Center believe that soy has its negative impact on health, particularly for women, because it does increase the risks of developing breast cancer. As we have repeatedly informed the general public, soy is one of the major GMO crops raised here in the Philippines and in the U.S. Since GMO crops are famously linked to various kinds of diseases, not just cancer, we would like to affirm our stand on this and thank the FDA for such a move on the labeling of soy-based products.
How about you – do you believe in soy-based companies’ claims that it can improve heart health and reduce cholesterol? Share your opinions in the comments section below!