Hello! Welcome to Beyond Soy!
Milk comes in many varieties these days: cow’s milk, soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, etc. Milk should be simple: milk doesn’t have soy in it, except for soy milk (which, as the name suggests, contains soy). Unfortunately, it isn’t quite that easy. Because soy milk is such a common replacement for cow’s milk, soy can sneak into foods that use milk even when you don’t expect it.
The real culprit here are coffee shops. Coffee shops use a lot of soy milk (“non-fat soy latte anyone?”), which poses a problem for both ingredient mixups and cross contamination.
Ingredient mixups are rare, but they can happen. Especially, if you don’t specify that you need your drink to be soy-free (and let’s be honest, why would you need to specify at a coffee shop?) it is possible to get a drink that contains soy when you didn’t intend to. Some baristas seem to default to soy-milk, which is unhelpful. If your Starbucks drink of choice does use milk, we recommend specifying regular (i.e., non-soy) milk when you order. It is pretty easy to ask for 2% or whole milk when ordering, and much easier than confirming that soy milk wasn’t used when you pick up your drink.
Cross contamination is also relatively rare, but it too can happen. The machines at a coffee shop aren’t getting washed between each use; they’ll be rinsed out, but if the drink before yours used soy milk, there may be a small amount of soy remaining. If that soy gets into your drink unintentionally, it can cause problems. Coffee shops are good about cleaning things very well if you specify that you need it, but that can be socially uncomfortable and a pain to do. We find that the best option is to pick a drink that doesn’t get made with shared equipment (tea is usually our drink of choice) to limit the chance of cross contamination occurring.
Soy milk can be used plenty of other foods, but it is usually in a setting where you can ask about the ingredients, and soy milk is rarely used at restaurants. Be careful with things like cream sauces, macaroni and cheese, and even scrambled eggs as soy milk can be used in them without your knowledge.
To wrap this post up with an almost funny anecdote, did you know we used to drink soy milk? Before we found out that Ashley was intolerant to soy, we drank soy milk (since Ashley is mildly lactose intolerant). Needless to say, that stopped right away. Now we choose almond milk.