Tag Archives: Sauce

Is soy sauce “safe” for people with Celiac?

Posted on by .

Just recently my husband and I were talking about soy sauce.  I know, it’s not your typical lovey-dovey conversation, but really – who has those everyday and/or posts them on their blogs?    But in all honesty, our discussion has often bounced back to soy sauce in regard to Celiac/Gluten Free diet.

You see, the reality of my life is this:  soy sauce is in everything (well… almost everything) my in-laws cook.  And while we sadly have not been able to travel in years (read: 2003) to visit them, we would like to.  We want to bring these beautiful babies toddlers (!) we have back to see the rest of our family.  So we start talking about the added expense of traveling when you need to buy food and/or cook.

Primarily while staying at someone else’s home, I don’t want them to feel put-out that I don’t eat what they are serving.  At my parent’s house, I have no problem sliding in to the kitchen and cooking.  In fact, I love it!  But at my in-laws, the kitchen is laid out differently and they do a different style of cooking than what I grew up with.  It makes cooking for them a bit more of a hurdle.  Add to that the fact that food intolerances/allergies are truly not a common topic nor common in the general Asian population (aside from dairy/lactose which isn’t really in the main diet plan anyway) and well… it can lead to some hurdles.

So back to the soy sauce.

When we traveled in 2003, I just bought a bottle of San-J when we arrived for cooking.  It was a great conversation starter (lol!) as we talked about the salty (or non-salty) factor compared to the sauces they liked to use.  (Yes, each varies significantly in saltiness, thickness, etc.)  At one resturant, my father-in-law tried to help my by explaining that I can have wheat/soy sauce and he beamed with pride when the wait-staff and chef told him there was no wheat in what they made.  And then out came the wheat-puffed pancakes for the wheat-soy sauced laden Peking Duck.  (PS.  The “dao mew” – snow pea pods shoots – were AWESOME that night.)

Soy sauce is everywhere in the Asian diet.

And I don’t always trust the labels.

And then I found this study by Frederik Janssen on the GlutenTox blog.  (I am not associated with them, just found them via my search about gluten and soy sauce).  (Copy of the PDF is here:  Safety-of-Asian-soy-sauce-in-gf-diet).

Approaching the gluten free diet frustration of eating-out and the common exposure/concern of soy sauce, the study looked at the varying ingredients found in different soy sauce brands (European based) and analyzed them for their gliadin content.  Remember, the protein that causes the damage to the intestinal track for Celiac patients (like myself) is this protein.  Truly, it is a speck within the wheat grain.

From the anecdotal piece of their survey, Celiac patients who self-reported information regarding how they approach soy sauces responded with the following commentaries:

  • avoided all products with wheat listed on the label
  • consumed soy sauce with wheat listed on label with non-typical reactions that could not be attributed to the wheat/soy sauce
  • consumed soy sauce with wheat on the label with “ease since they know the proteins in these sauces were almost completely degraded; consequently they did not experience any symptoms.” (p.56/Jannsen)

The report further states that “given the results of our analysis, it is quite remarkable that symptoms occurred in some coeliacs after these products were eaten.”

The scientific analysis appears to demonstrate that the levels of gliadin are slightly lower (on average) that the proposed levels (20ppm in the EU).  Most surprising to me was this statement:

“Given the amount of soy sauce used in Asian dishes this level might be irrelevant.   

and

“There seems to be no correlation between gluten content and the declaration of wheat on the product label.”

The attached PDF (referenced above) then continues on to discuss the types of labeling laws now required (and those not, like for wheat starch) in the EU as well as whether or not the methodology available for analyzing such materials is suitable for the hydrolyzed gluten proteins found in the fermented goods like soy sauce.

As a result of their analysis (please, read it for yourselves) are the following recommendations:

  • that, as far as possible, Coeliacs should choose Asian soy sauces which do not include wheat.
  • if such information (ingredient listing) is not available, they should not be worried about the ingestion of gluten as investigation have shown that hte level so fgluten are almost insignificant in relation to the safe dose as reported by Catassi…
  • Coeliacs should, however, still avoid dishes with very high levels of soy sauce.

Truly I am awed.

I have always wondered.  And in all honesty, have not worried too much about soy sauce.  I have a good handle on food prep/recipes in Asian (mainly Chinese) foods and have felt fairly confident selecting my items with care.  But soy sauce remained one of those ingredients that I question.  NOT because I think it is “bad” but because I wonder what the levels truly are.  This paper has brought the conversation back to our dinner table.

I’d love for it to begin conversation here.

What do you think?  I’d love to collect some info/ideas from you all to post in a follow up post.  I will NOT share you personal information ever.  The results will be tabulated into a graph for sharing.  If you are willing, please click here.

Is soy sauce ‘safe” for the gluten free diet?