Recently, a colleague sent me a link with the words “what, soy sauce causes cancer now?” emblazoned across the email. I could sense her frustration through the keyboard. What next, the very air we breathe causes cancer? (Actually, in my city, it does.) Sometimes it seems like we have to give up everything for the gods of health: trans fats, antiperspirants, and/or mascara that doesn’t run. When is the time to say – enough, I want my high fructose corn syrup-sugared cake and I want to eat it too?
Well, that day is not today. (Nor is it any day for a person who doesn’t want to live in Ignorance is Bliss Land. This exists right next to magical Cake Town and Pie Ville. Sighs all around.) Because, yes, some soy sauce could cause cancer. Soy sauce contains an organic chemical compound called 3-MCPD. It occurs when hydrochloric acid is used to speed up the reaction of the soy protein, a cheaper method used by some manufacturers. According to sources, this compound “is carcinogenic and highly suspected to be genotoxic in humans, has male anti-fertility effects, and is a chemical byproduct which may be formed in foods.”
The compound has been found at high levels in many causes in East and Southeast Asia. But recent information also links it to sauces found all over the world. As the Canadian Cancer Society reports, “3-MCPD is a substance that has been found to be present in a number of soy, mushroom and oyster sauces in Canada and the United Kingdom. The levels vary from product to product ranging from very low levels to relatively high ones.”
The British Food Standards Agency (FSA) has sorted out “brands and products imported from Thailand, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Brands named in the British warning include Golden Mountain, King Imperial, Pearl River Bridge, Jammy Chai, Lee Kum Kee (李錦記), Golden Mark, Kimlan (金蘭), Golden Swan, Sinsin, Tung Chun and Wanjasham soy sauce.”
So do we start a soy tea party and start dumping our soy sauce into the streets? Not just yet. The FSA stresses that some soy brands were found to be 3-MCPD free and that these non-toxic brands all came from major food chains.
So for now, just be aware of who made your soy sauce. And in the meantime? Prepare yourself for the next delicious food which will be declared unhealthy. I’m standing guard over cupcakes. They’re very healthy. I know it. (Hands plugging ears.)