FDA Decision May Expand Soy Use

With the FDA considering new grocery labels that emphasize the cardiovascular benefits of soy foods, the Los Angeles Times ran a report that quoted health researchers, soy processing executives and others on the prospects for increased soy use.

"We are most excited," said Martin Andreas, senior VP of Archer Daniels Midland Co.(Decatur, IL) in the article. "The government will be doing the public a favor in pointing out how good these foods are for them. And this will elevate the image of soy foods—give them a visibility they never had before."

Andreas predicted that soy protein soon could be found in all kinds of mainstream foods, such as baked goods, many more beverages and breakfast cereals. Until recently, Andreas said, soy had found it "impossible" to draw positive attention in such foods as cereals, "but now people are looking at it very seriously."

Stephen Barnes, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told the Times that the FDA proposal to permit the health claims for soy products "is very reasonable."

"The knowledge about the effects of soy on cholesterol dates back over 20 years," Barnes said.

But Mary Anthony, a cardiovascular epidemiologist working on research for the Wake Forest University School of Medicine at Winston-Salem, N.C., told the newspaper she questioned whether all soy products should be allowed to claim the positive anti-cholesterol health effects, or whether only soy protein containing isoflavones should be permitted the health labeling. The FDA, Mestel wrote, says there's not yet sufficient evidence to "single out isoflavones as the agent that lowers cholesterol," but the agency could still change its position.

The FDA is expected to make its determination in health labeling for soy products by October 30, about a year after first giving tentative approval in November 1998. The agency is now reviewing public comments.