Spiral Foods Court Action: Update!

I know it’s been a LONG time since I had an update – slllllllowly wind the wheels of justice.

Anyway, here’s what I know.
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The Bonsoy class action had a directions hearing last Friday in the Supreme Court. As part of the orders made, the case has been referred for mediation, which must happen by end of October this year.

As you may (or may not) know, Spiral Foods brought (joined) the Japanese manufacturer (Marusan-ai) and exporter (Muso) into the court case, claiming that they supplied Spiral with bad product. In the defences that the manufacturer and exporter filed, they say that Spiral contacted them in mid-2006 and asked about iodine levels in Bonsoy because of a query by a concerned consumer.

The manufacturer tested Bonsoy and found that it had pretty much the same iodine levels as were found at the time of the recall – ie very high. They say that those test results were then provided to the exporter and to Spiral Foods.

So it looks like the problem existed for years and at least as far back as 2006 Spiral knew exactly how much iodine Bonsoy contained.

My comment: what this to me at least shows, is that Spiral has a case to answer. They pretty much knew that Bonsoy was high in iodine as far back as 2006. It’s my understanding the original query to the manufacturer was triggered by an ill consumer.

This poses the question: if Spiral asked for an iodine level test, due to a query from an ill consumer, and were informed that the product was high in iodine, wouldn’t this raise some serious concerns in Spiral to try and mitigate any potential issues?

I will have more news as it comes to hand.

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Bonsoy Back on Shelves, Still no Apology

Below is an extract of the media release, dated April 29th. A fantastic amount of positive spin (they certainly lay the schmaltz on thick at the end), but no mention of anyone’s ill health, nor an apology.

I also wonder what they think about the negative feedback, and people’s stories of their ill health as a result of consuming this “healthy, natural food product”.

BONSOY IS BACK
BARISTAS AND COFFEE LOVERS WELCOME THE RETURN OF REFORMULATED BONSOY MILK

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Bonsoy, the leading soy milk enjoyed by baristas and consumers around the globe, has returned, reformulated, to cafes across Australia.

The soy milk drink, which was been a favourite among Australian coffee drinkers for more than 25 years, is being redistributed to cafes following its reformulation.

Fully tested and approved by Australian food regulators, the reformulated product has been distributed to cafes in NSW and Victoria for sale in limited quantities, according to Spiral Foods Director James Wilson.

“We’ve been inundated by loyal Bonsoy drinkers who have been asking when Bonsoy will be back. We’re pleased to announce the reformulated product is now available,” said Wilson.

“For more than 30 years Spiral Foods has been committed to providing healthy, natural food products and we have worked with the producers of Bonsoy to reformulate the product and return it to cafes and stores as soon as possible,” Mr Wilson added.

The new formula resulted in the removal of kombu, a seaweed extract that contains naturally occurring iodine.

“We have thoroughly tested the new product and have worked with the producers to ensure it fully satisfies Bonsoy drinkers in terms of taste and texture,” Mr Wilson said.

Bonsoy will be available in limited quantities through cafes before a full roll-out to consumers, through health food stores and supermarkets, later this year.

Mr Wilson said he was delighted by the positive response to product taste testing among cafe owners and customers.

“We’ve carried out taste tests with over 30 cafe owners and baristas stocking the new product in Sydney. The findings have been overwhelmingly positive – 100% gave it the thumbs up, claiming they liked or loved the new product. Everyone involved believed it made a great cup of coffee and would recommend it to their customers.”

“We’re pleased to have Bonsoy back with a great tasting, creamy soy milk,” said Jaraya Wood, Manager at Journeys Bookstore and Cafe in Annandale.

“It’s great and much preferred over other soy milks,” added Renee Byrne, Co-owner of Le Monde Cafe in Surry Hills. “It tastes a little lighter than before. I’m very happy with this product.”
The product also has the stamp of approval from Australian Naturopath Kevin Griffiths, who is enthusiastic about its health benefits.

“The reason that I love Bonsoy is that it is made with whole organic soy beans that have been prepared according to ancient and traditional Japanese principals,” Mr Griffiths said

“Bonsoy is a great source of high level vegetable protein and still has that delicious creamy taste and smooth texture that is loved by so many, including myself. It is also low in fat and free of cholesterol. Bonsoy is a nutritious and enjoyable addition to a well balanced and wholefood diet.”

-Ends-

Really and true, it’s fairly sickening (and would be laughable if the matter was not so serious) – the below text in particular is just horrible to read. It reads like a bad infomercial.

“We’re pleased to have Bonsoy back with a great tasting, creamy soy milk,” said Jaraya Wood, Manager at Journeys Bookstore and Cafe in Annandale.

“It’s great and much preferred over other soy milks,” added Renee Byrne, Co-owner of Le Monde Cafe in Surry Hills. “It tastes a little lighter than before. I’m very happy with this product.”
The product also has the stamp of approval from Australian Naturopath Kevin Griffiths, who is enthusiastic about its health benefits.

“The reason that I love Bonsoy is that it is made with whole organic soy beans that have been prepared according to ancient and traditional Japanese principals,” Mr Griffiths said

“Bonsoy is a great source of high level vegetable protein and still has that delicious creamy taste and smooth texture that is loved by so many, including myself. It is also low in fat and free of cholesterol. Bonsoy is a nutritious and enjoyable addition to a well balanced and wholefood diet.”

More Information about the 2004-2005 NZ Thyrotoxicosis Case and How it Relates to Bonsoy

I’ve done some more digging around on the 2004-2005 Thyrotoxicosis cluster in NZ.

In this particular case, the manufacturer/product was not Spiral Foods/Bonsoy.

It seems that:

  1. A major soy milk manufacturer was implicated. Their product was tested and found to have excessive iodine.
  2. Several people took action against the manufacturer and received what I understand to be large payouts, on the condition of total confidentiality.
  3. The product has never been officially named by NZ or Australian public health authorities.
  4. Due to the confidentiality around the case, neither the public nor other manufacturers would have known about the case, thereby helping to prevent a repeat of this issue.
  5. It is my understanding that the lead agency in the 2005 case was the Victorian Food Safety Authority, who also were responsible for the Bonsoy recall.

These points raise what I believe are major causes for concern, namely:

  1. Why didn’t Australian and NZ public health officials force all soy milk manufacturers to submit their products for testing, specifically for those products with seaweed added.
  2. There is a clear chain of communication and accountability between the 2005 NZ case and Bonsoy cases – the Victorian Food Safety Authority. They, from what I am told, were the lead agency in both cases.
  3. Why was the public put under serious health risk because of private court action. Surely the greater good – public health – takes precedence. This argument is strengthened in my mind when I hear stories of women having miscarriages, and people having serious health issues, as a result of iodine-induced thyrotoxicosis arising from soy milk (as it relates to Bonsoy) consumption at normal levels.

Here are two articles from the NZ case. You can read clearly the mandate and importance that confidentiality was given as it relates to the 2005 manufacturer.

I’ve made them downloadable for your own records, and in case a lawyer needs them for discovery.

Whilst the Victorian Food Safety Authority has some questions to answer, I believe Spiral is still in the hotseat.

It ought to be pretty obvious who the mystery manufacturer is (this is a great lesson in how to handle PR, and something I’ll address later).

The 2005 Soy Milk Thyrotoxicosis Case in NZ

Well, well.

What a wonderful thing the internet is.

Courtesy of some research and a heads-up, I have become aware of the existence of a cluster of thyrotoxicosis in NZ in 2003-2005, that was subsequently linked to a soy milk manufacturer.

You can download the brief summary paper here – this was published in the Aust-NZ Journal of Public Health. Not exactly an underground or unknown publication.

This really does raise some, I think, serious questions. Public health officials knew about the risk of iodine poisoning from soy milk back in 2005.

  • Why weren’t all soy manufacturers forced to submit their soy milk for testing?
  • Who has accountability for this?
  • Where does the culpability lie?
  • Is anyone even responsible?
  • Who was the soy milk company discussed in the paper?

Well, if you read this [2003-2004 NZ Total Food Diet Survey] and this [the Survey Food List], you’ll put 2 and 2 together and come up with Vitasoy.

Now, isn’t that interesting? I recently posted about how Vitasoy informed me that their soy milk products that do contain kombu, contain kombu in numbers that are way under the limit.

However, reading the links, you’ll see that as recently as 2003-2005 or thereabouts, there was a thyrotoxicosis cluster in NZ that was linked to Vitasoy.

So, it seems that the lower levels are a recent development, or, the NZ formula was different to the Oz one (this is all speculation of course).

In any case, this certainly sets a precedent for cost and injury recovery from Spiral Food (more on my travails there soon).