Hello! Welcome to Beyond Soy!
Food labeling isn’t always straightforward… The other day Ashley and I were at Target to pick up some candy canes for our Christmas tree. We found the regular (basic) version without much trouble and, since they are a product that we don’t purchase very often, we checked the ingredients: sugar, corn syrup, and peppermint oil (plus some colors). Those ingredients seemed very straightforward and we were prepared to leave the store when we walked past some other candy cane packages and Ashley saw a package that said “Free of Major Allergens”.
Our curiosity got the better of us, so we checked the ingredients: sugar, corn syrup, natural flavors (plus vegetable juice for color). These ingredients don’t seem very different from the basic variety! On the surface, a customer might pick up the “Free of Major Allergens” variety if they had an allergy, but they might actually introduce a different problem.
Ashley and I avoid natural flavors as much as possible because we’ve had some difficulty with them in the past. While we’ve never been able to definitively say that natural flavors contain soy, we also haven’t been able to rule them out, and some natural flavors can be made from soy (and therefore may still contain trace amounts of soy proteins). By choosing the “allergen free” candy cane variety, a customer could be introducing a possible allergen when the basic candy canes already have very simple ingredients that are free of most allergens. (note also that corn can be an allergen and both types of candy canes use corn syrup)
Remember, when looking for allergen-free products, the “allergen free” labeled item may be a good idea, but it always pays to check the basic items too to gain an understanding of what types of ingredients are common in the original item.