LONDON--Before the American media gets a hold of the latest soy news, one point should be made clear: certain soy sauce, not soybeans or other soy foods, may cause cancer. The United Kingdom's Food Standards Agency (FSA) (www.foodstandards.gov.uk), which was set up by Parliament last year and is accountable through the country's health ministers, issued a warning to consumers that 22 out of 100 soy sauces tested for high levels of potentially cancer-causing chemicals. FSA was quick to add that all of those from major grocery stores were found to be completely safe.
During a survey conducted last year in England, the offending samples tested positive for 3-MCPD at levels that were considered unsafe by European Union standards. In addition, some samples contained 1,3-DCP, a chemical that FSA stated should not be present in any food. The chemicals are usually produced by adding acid hydrolyzed vegetable protein to increase sauce production. The chemical 3-MCPD has the potential to cause cancer and has been limited by the European Scientific Committee for Food to an intake level of 0.02 mg/kg of body weight. The other, 1, 3-DCP, is thought to be genotoxic because it may damage DNA. Both chemicals belong to a group of chemicals known as chloropropanols. FSA stated that "their presence in soy sauce is avoidable."
According to the Agency, affected products were imported from Thailand, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, and they were mainly sold in Asian food stores with Asian labeling. Toxic products will be removed from store shelves, and a follow-up investigation is planned for later. FSA concluded in its press release that a high intake of an affected sauce may increase the risk for cancer over a long period of time.
Popular brands such as Kikkoman, Blue Dragon and Sainsbury were found to be safe.