Hello! Welcome to Beyond Soy!
When we eat at a restaurant, Ashley and I always look for an allergen menu to help us identify some soy-free options. An allergen menu is typically an easy way to identify menu items that contain soy, but there is a catch: Does the allergen menu identify soybean oil? Soybean oil doesn’t impact all people with soy allergies or intolerances, so (just like with ingredient lists), soybean oil might not be called out on the allergen menu. This can be a problem because Ashley can’t eat soybean oil. We can definitely use an allergen menu to clearly identify the items that contain soy. But how do we know if the remaining items are actually soy-free or if they contain soybean oil that just isn’t identified?
Some allergen menus identify which type of oil the restaurant uses. For example, Chick-fil-A states that they cook in 100% refined peanut oil at the top of their allergen menu. Other menus provide statements about their consideration of soybean oil. Look for an asterisk on the bottom of the menu that says whether soybean oil is considered. Alternatively, some restaurants provide extensive ingredient lists for each menu item. With these, you can use the allergen menu to identify a few menu options, and then dive into the ingredients to verify they are soy-free.
But what if you get no soybean oil information on the allergen menu? When we find ourselves in this situation, we look up a product that we know contains soybean oil (usually mayonnaise) on the allergen menu. If the allergen menu lists mayonnaise as containing soy, then we know that the allergen menu is identifying soybean oil. If mayonnaise is listed as soy-free, we know that the soy-free options on the allergen menu are not guaranteed to be free from soybean oil. Mayonnaise probably doesn’t exist by itself on the menu, but you can find mayonnaise-containing items (think: things like sandwiches). Using this trick, we can flip an allergen menu from a “can’t eat” list to a “can eat” list.
Allergen menus are incredibly useful tools for eating soy-free, but you still need to be careful. Check for soybean oil to ensure that your food is truly soy-free!