Tuesday Tidbit: Hexane in Your "Natural" Soy Products?

veggie burger with cheese

You're trying to clean up your act, right?  Eat less meat?  More veggies?  And maybe part of your plan was to incorporate more soy-based products into your repertoire . . . after all, you've gotta get some protein, right?  Well, you might want to consider splurging on organic.  In a recent report by the Cornucopia Institute, a research and advocacy group for small-scale farmers, a "dirty little secret" of the natural foods business is exposed.  Turns out, there's widespread use of a toxic and environmentally damaging chemical, hexane, in the manufacturing of "natural" soyfoods such as veggie burgers, nutrition bars and protein shakes. Hexane (a by-product of gasoline refining), is used to separate the whole soybean into soy oil, protein and fiber.  The use of chemical solvents like hexane is prohibited in organic food processing, yet its use is widespread in the "natural" soy industry, including in some products labeled as "made with organic soybeans," such as Clif ® Bars. Hexane is a neurotoxin, and is listed as a "hazardous air pollutant" by the EPA.  The health effects of consuming hexane residues in soy foods haven't yet been thoroughly studied and are not regulated by the FDA, but the test results obtained by the Cornucopia Institute indicate that residues—ten times higher than what is considered normal by the FDA—do appear in common soy ingredients.

Not so healthy. 

What to do?  If you're freaked about this, look for soy products like veggie burgers and nutrition bars that are labeled "organic."  You probably don't have to worry about tofu or soymilk, because the soy protein in those doesn't need to be isolated from the soy oil and fiber . . . hence, likely no hexane.  Of couse, if you don't choose organic soymilk or tofu, you might end up with genetically engineered foods, which is a whole 'nother can o' worms.