On the basis of a laboratory test on soy products, revealing particularly worrying levels of phytoestrogens, compounds strongly suspected to be endocrine disruptors, the UFC-Que Choisir seizes the ANSES and the DGCCRF to enhance safety and information on food products containing them. In the meantime, the Association is making recommendations to consumers to limit their exposure to these potentially harmful substances.
Endocrine disruptors in soy?
In the context of growing concerns about health, animal welfare or carbon footprint, soy is an interesting alternative for consumers who want to limit their meat consumption. The downside, soy is also an important source of phytoestrogens (called isoflavones in the case of soy). These substances whose molecular structure is close to a natural hormone of the human body, could be endocrine disruptors and promote certain cancers, or even affect the fetus, the young child or fertility. As such, ANSES (National Agency for Food Safety, Food, Environment and Labor) issued an opinion in 2005 to limit the presence of these substances and better inform consumers.
A test of CFU-Que Choose from 55 common foods containing soy
UFC-Que Choisir measured phytoestrogen doses in 55 common soy foods (prepared meals, cookies, desserts, beverages, appetizers and sauces) in order to calculate consumer exposure to values considered tolerable 3 by ANSES. 14 years after the first recommendations of the Agency, the results are particularly worrying:
- Up to 5 times the maximum dose in a single serving! The worst-rated products of our test far exceed the maximum allowable doses. A glass of Cereal Bio brand ” Sud-Ouest nature ” soy beverage alone brings in nearly 150% of the maximum allowable dose for an adult, when a portion of Jardin Bio’s ” gourmet soy protein couscous ” exceeds three and a half times this dose. Worse, one handful of toasted soybeans for aperitif ” party Soya kind ” of Soy contains more than 5 times the maximum dose!
- Phytoestrogens in meatballs! Far from being confined to soymilk and tofu, phytoestrogens are also found in foods where you would not expect to find soy. These inexpensive proteins added by manufacturers in some meatballs can expose consumers to high levels of phytoestrogens. For example, of the 12 meat products in our sample ( beef dumplings , chicken nuggets , stuffed tomatoes …), 5 of them bring in more than a quarter of the maximum dose. The highest levels were found in Beef Meatballs from Auchan, Leader Price and Leclerc 4 each of which contributes 68%, 60% and 42% of the maximum acceptable dose for a child, respectively.
- No more than one soy product per day. If the levels found in the other products are a little lower, the cumulation is a problem. Regular consumption thus exposes the consumer to large overruns equivalent to two and a half times the maximum allowable dose for adults or children. This explains why ANSES recommends avoiding the consumption of soy products for pregnant women and children under three years of age. On this basis, it seems prudent not to consume more than one serving of soy product per day.
Given the high levels of phytoestrogens identified in this test and the risks of endocrine disruption caused by the consumption of these products, the UFC-Que Choisir, anxious to protect consumers:
- Seize ANSES so that, in the light of the most recent scientific studies and new consumption habits, it reassesses the level of risk for consumers and, if necessary, sets maximum mandatory application rates.
- Requests the Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) to make phytoestrogens content in products mandatory for labeling, as well as a reference to the restrictions on children and pregnant women.