View Full Version : Chemicals Used in Processing Soybeans

Jan 31st, 2008, 01:40 AM
It's painful for me to even consider this and as a devout dedicated vegan who has loved soy for many years, well more than 10 years, it breaks my heart to even think or say this. I find it very distressing. :( I see that there are several threads that have been posted here on the possible dangers of soy, but these posts only address the common known concerns that many people have, such as thyroid and cancer. I read an article today with the title, "Drano used in processing soybeans". Essentially, what is being said is that a chemical known as sodium hydroxide is used in the processing of soybeans. Granted, there are soy products - beans, tofu, soymilk, soy protein, soy lecithin, and other soy products - that are grown and harvested organic, free of harmful petro-chemicals and are non-GMO, but once they leave the farm and go to the factory, the process there is a different situation. The information I'm being told is that all soy, including organic and non-GMO, is processed with these harmful chemicals. It would be great if someone knowledgeable could tell me, "no, that isn't true, it's only the non-organic soy". It would be great, but I don't expect it. Can someone please shed some light on this subject? Thank you. I wrote to John Robbins at foodrevolution.org and I'm waiting for a response. PCRM doesn't have any information about this on their website.

Jan 31st, 2008, 02:23 AM
I think the article title is silly ("Drano used in processing soybeans"), since sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is used in tonnes of different ways for manufacturing everything from paper and soap to ice cream, chocolate and drinking water. The only reason it's used as a drain cleaner is because it is very alkaline and, in strong concentrations, can dissolve grease and hair in drains. But baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is also quite alkaline, and it isn't considered a harmful chemical. I wouldn't worry if soybeans were processed with NaOH, because in the concentrations used in food manufacturing, I doubt that it would be any more harmful than than other alkalides like sodium bicarbonate, or acids like acetic acid (vinegar).

Jan 31st, 2008, 03:04 AM
From Wikipedia:

Food preparation
Food uses of lye include washing or chemical peeling of fruits (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruits) and vegetables (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetables), chocolate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolate) and cocoa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cocoa) processing, caramel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caramel) color production, poultry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poultry) scalding, soft drink (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_drink) processing, and thickening ice cream (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_cream). Olives (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olive) are often soaked in lye to soften them, while pretzels (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretzel) and German (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germany) lye rolls (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lye_roll) are glazed with a lye solution before baking to make them crisp. Due to the difficulty in obtaining food grade lye in small quantities for home use, sodium carbonate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_carbonate) is often used in place of sodium hydroxide[8] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_hydroxide#_note-7).
Specific foods processed with lye include:

The Scandinavian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scandinavia) delicacy known as lutefisk (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lutefisk) (from lutfisk, "lye fish").
Hominy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hominy) is dried maize (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maize) (corn) kernels reconstituted by soaking in lye-water. These expand considerably in size and may be further processed by frying to make corn nuts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corn_nuts) or by drying and grinding to make grits (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grits). Nixtamal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nixtamal) is similar, but uses calcium hydroxide (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calcium_hydroxide) instead of sodium hydroxide.
Sodium hydroxide is also the chemical that causes gelling of egg whites in the production of Century eggs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Century_egg).
German pretzels (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretzel) are poached in a boiling sodium hydroxide solution before baking, which contributes to their unique crust.
Most yellow coloured Chinese noodles (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_noodles) are made with lye-water but are commonly mistaken for containing egg.Sounds like no big deal?

Jan 31st, 2008, 03:45 AM
I wouldn't think it was anything to worry about either.

Jan 31st, 2008, 04:12 AM
It's funny that they would publish an article titled: "Drano used in processing soybeans" instead of maybe, "A base used in processing soybeans" but actually it's not funny. It's nothing to worry about. It's just to get the right pH.

If Drano's lawyers were to see that they might write a letter to that publication reminding them that Drano is a brand name and not a generic term for lye.

Jan 31st, 2008, 05:03 AM
It's all just scare tactics.