BONSOY SETTLEMENT PUTS THE SPOTLIGHT ON IODINE
By Paris Owen, Nutrition Student
Iodine is a micronutrient that commonly flies under the radar. A recent settlement for $25 million against the manufacturers, exporters and distributors of Bonsoy has however brought iodine into the spotlight.
Back in December 2009, Bonsoy- a well-known brand of soy milk, was taken off our shelves after it was found to contain 50 times(!) the recommended daily intake of iodine in one glass. As a result, a class action lawsuit was filed in 2010, which means that a group of people took on the makers of Bonsoy in court. This group consisted of almost 500 individuals who claimed to have suffered severe health consequences such as heart palpitations, loss of muscle function and unconsciousness as a result of drinking the soy milk. Just recently in November, the Australian company Spiral Foods and Japanese companies Marusan-ai Co Ltd and exporter Muso Co Ltd awarded a total of $25 million to those affected. This makes it the highest paying settlement of a food safety class action in Australian history!
WHY WAS BONSOY HIGH IN IODINE?
Iodine doesn’t naturally exist in soy milk. It is however present in a seaweed product known as Kombu, which was added to give a ‘saltiness’ to the milk. This means the company didn’t have to add salt (as this wouldn’t look very good on the nutrition information panel!). The salty flavour of Kombu comes from it’s naturally high presence of glutamic acid. This can then be further processed to form monosodium glutamate (MSG), an artificial flavor enhancer commonly found in Asian dishes. In August 2003, the ‘pure kombu’ was replaced with a concentrated powder form, which is when problems began to occur. If you currently drink Bonsoy- not to worry! It was reformulated in 2010 to exclude Kombu so it currently safe to drink.
WHAT IS IODINE & WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Iodine is a micronutrient, which means we need very small amounts of it. This does not however mean it is less important! It plays an essential role in the synthesis of thyroid hormones, which are responsible for regulating our metabolic rate and promote growth and development. Iodine is especially important for brain development of the fetus during pregnancy and also during early childhood. Iodine deficiency can therefore result in stunted growth, diminished intelligence and intellectual disabilities. In fact, Iodine efficiency is the world’s leading cause of preventable intellectual disability in children! Other iodine deficiency disorders include goitre, or if longterm, hypothyroidism.
IODINE INTAKE IN AUSTRALIA IS LOW
Although iodine was considerably high in Bonsoy, a large proportion of the Australian population have low iodine intakes.
This is due to a number of reasons:
o A reduction of iodine in our soil. This is because iodine is particularly water soluble and therefore it can be easily leached from soil by rainwater.
o The removal of processing aids used by the dairy industry in early 1970s has lead to reduced iodine in milk.
o A reduction in adding iodized salt during cooking or at the dinner table.
Therefore, in October 2009, it became mandatory for all bread sold in Australia (except organic varieties and bread mixes) to contain iodized salt in replacement of non-iodized salt. Along with iodine, another essential micronutrient called folic acid was added, as deficiencies have also been linked to impaired fetal development.
FOODS HIGH IN IODINE
Iodine in Australian soil is now so low that our fruit and veggies are no longer good sources of iodine.
The best sources therefore include:
o Seafood- Fish (including canned varieties) and shellfish, such as oysters are the best sources.
o Kelp- Otherwise known as seaweed. A type of kelp called Kombu was added to Bonsoy. Common kelp dishes include sushi, miso soup and salads.
o Iodized salt- Although adding salt to our food should be avoided, when necessary iodised salt should be chosen over non-iodised salt.
o Men & women (18 and over)- Recommended to consume 150µg (micrograms) of iodine per day.
o Pregnancy- Recommended to consume 220µg of iodine per day.
o Lactation- Recommended to consume 270µg of iodine per day.
Higher recommendations during pregnancy and lactation are necessary to assist with growth and most importantly proper brain development for the growing baby. Women who are planning pregnancy, pregnant or lactating are recommended to take a daily supplement consisting of 150 µg of iodine, which can be found in pregnancy supplements such as Elevit.
Hi fellow food lovers! My name is Paris Owen and I am currently undertaking a Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics at University of Wollongong. I am also a university-qualified Nutritionist, graduating last year with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition. I work with Body Bloom, a women’s fitness training group, providing specialised sports nutrition advice and meal plans. Bondi Farmers Markets is where you will find me on Saturdays making nutritious goodies with an incredible team at the Inside Out Nutritious Goods stall.
I like to take an evidence-based approach for nutritional recommendations to ensure the best health outcomes for each unique individual. I also like to approach health in a holistic way incorporating physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. In the future, I will become an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, working in the public health system and eventually, in private practice. I am particularly interested in food allergies and intolerances and sports nutrition, however there are so many other areas I am yet to discover!
Paul Farrell 2014, Bonsoy milk class action settled for a record $25m, The Guardian, weblog, 24 November, viewed 1 December 2014, <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/24/bonsoy-milk-class-action-settled-25m>.
Erin Downie tells of frightening health issues after $25 million Bonsoy settlement, news.com.au, viewed 1 December 2014, <http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/erin-downie-tells-of-frightening-health-issues-after-25-million-bonsoy-settlement/story-fneuz9ev-1227134341013>.
Emily Han 2009, Ingredient Spotlight: Dried Kombu, The Kitchn, weblog, 2 April, viewed 1 December 2014, <http://www.thekitchn.com/ingredient-spotlight-kombu-75445>
Emma Younger 2014, Bonsoy toxic soy milk victims on track for share of $25m payout; thought to be record-setting settlement, ABC News, 24 November, viewed 1 December 2014, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-24/bonsoy-iodine-victims-on-track-for-share-of-25m-payout/5913218>.
Better Health Channel 2014, Iodine, viewed 1 December 2014, <http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Iodine_explained>.