The Bonsoy Recall Update

Hi, there – before we start, I need to note a couple of things.

  1. To be 100% clear: this is not a vendetta. This is about loyal customers of Bonsoy being made sick, and being able to deal with the results of that, or being completely unaware of the cause of their illness.
  2. If I sound angry, it’s because I am, and I won’t make apologies for that.
  3. I, and we, need to be really careful what we say here and use terms like alleged and so on where it’s warranted. After all, I don’t want anyone to get in trouble, nor prejudice any potential legal action, nor (most importantly), prejudice any dialogue anyone currently has with Spiral Foods regarding compensation.

Anyway, you may be wondering why I started this site.

I did so because I am really angry at how the Bonsoy recall has been handled. I think it’s fairly lax that this can happen with not even a hint of apology to affected people. This is serious stuff; my friend has been gravely unwell for over a year, with the culprit, at least from where his endocrinologist sits, almost certainly being Bonsoy.

My friend and I have already contacted Slater and Gordon regarding a class action, but they are not proceeding with the case.

I’ve subsequently contacted Maurice Blackburn about the case but they also are not proceeding due to the minimum level for damages case to proceed (at least in NSW – most cases according to them are in Victoria) being 15%; this equates roughly to loss of a limb.

In addition, I’ve emailed Consumer Affairs Victoria to make a complaint (no response yet), and contacted Spiral Foods to see what their position is on cost recovery for medical costs. There has not been a response from Spiral Foods yet (contacted March 24th). My contact with them did not make a claim for damages related to the effect on my health, however, this is something I will probably explore further with a solicitor.

So, what am I trying to achieve with this?

Well, I’d like people affected to get involved in this site. I’d like anyone who has been adversely affected by this product to be able to recover compensation. I want people to know what they’re entitled to do, and for them to be able to find information.

I want people to know what excess iodine can do to you (I’d never have imagined hyperthyroidism is linked to miscarriage).

I’d like to think there would be some sort of compensation for those whose quality of life has been affected adversely.

To this end, I’d love to hear from any legal people who would be interested in helping.

In case you missed it, here are the facts, directly from the Spiral Foods page regarding the recall. The news item that brought this to prominence is here.

Spiral Foods Bonsoy Media Announcement
Monday, March 1, 2010

In December 2009 Spiral Foods, the distributors of Bonsoy in Australia, initiated an immediate and voluntary recall of Bonsoy milk after being notified of elevated levels of iodine in the product.

Spiral Foods co-operated fully with health authorities and worked with its distributors to immediately remove Bonsoy from the shelves.

Bonsoy has now isolated the source of the iodine, which is naturally occurring in kombu, a seaweed which was an ingredient of Bonsoy. The producers of Bonsoy are currently reformulating the product, which involves the removal of kombu. While kombu has recognised health benefits (http://www.kurakonusa.com/), Spiral Foods is taking this step to eliminate any future issues.

Spiral Foods is committed to the highest standard of product quality and has taken this situation extremely seriously.

Spiral has been at the forefront of quality natural/gourmet foods for nearly 30 years and we pride ourselves in our products. Spiral Foods is also subject to all Australian health and food safety regulatory testing.

Thank you to those who have contacted Spiral Foods showing your support, we will be bringing back Bonsoy (reformulated) to our loyal customers very soon.

Spiral Foods is deeply concerned by this situation and appreciates your patience in this matter.

ENDS

VOLUNTARY RECALL

22 December – Bonsoy was made aware of a potential issue via an email from a customer who suggested customers be made aware of the levels of iodine

23 December – Victoria Health advises it had tested the product and found elevated levels of iodine

24 December – Within 12 hours of Victoria Health’s notification, Spiral Foods undertook a full voluntary recall of Bonsoy. This included:

* Recall notices in all major national newspapers
* Notification to retailers to remove all Bonsoy products
* Product returned or collected by Bonsoy where requested
* Full co-operation with health authorities who notified medical professionals

Here’s where the situation gets a bit murky.

The Spiral Foods website unfortunately does not contain the old press releases.

These old press releases, at least from my interpretation of them, cast doubt on the cause of the reported cases of hyperthyroidism. You can read more about my interpretation here (where I make no bones about how poorly I think the press release comes across).

To save you clicking through, the problem statements were:

What has not been reported in the media is that the adults all came from the ONE medical practice in NSW (FSANZ website). Also, we have yet to be provided with hard evidence showing that this entire group did in fact consume Bonsoy, that the evidence of Bonsoy consumption is not just anecdotal and that the consumption caused their “condition”.

“Condition”? You can read about this so called “condition” here, here and here. It’s personally affected me quite seriously, but I don’t want to detail that here.

Spiral Foods is committed to providing healthy and safe food; if you think about it, it is in our interests to do so.

And:

We have now been informed that 6 of the 8 say they consumed Bonsoy, the other two simply soy milk. It could be any brand, not Bonsoy.

So, if you’ve been affected, or, want to help get publicity about this issue, please link to this site, and drop me an email with the URL of your site or news item. If you want to contact me, please do so on the contact page.

And most importantly, if it’s obvious that I’ve stepped over the line legally with regard to anything I’ve said, or if I’ve prejudiced any action currently underway, please contact me immediately so that I can remove the offending comments.

36 thoughts on “The Bonsoy Recall Update”

  1. I’ve been drinking about 400ml of Bonsoy per day for about 20 years. Don’t seem to have any symptoms. Stopped drinking it when it was withdrawn, although I still have 2l in the cupboard.

    Seeing as you can eat yourself to death in McDonalds perfectly legally, you are probably going to have an uphill battle convincing any court to compensate you for ill-health alleged to be due to consuming Bonsoy. The evidence that McDonalds (& other fast foods as well as a lot of stuff sold in supermarkets) is harmful to your health is pretty strong, but nobody has succeeded in suing them yet AFAIK.

    Given that Bonsoy hasn’t breached any Australian health standards (there is no specified maximum level of iodine) the onus of proof will be on the “victim” to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Bonsoy caused their illness and that Bonsoy was in some way negligent. Good luck with that.

    Regards,
    Nik.

    P.S. can’t wait for Bonsoy to reappear, I just hope it is as good as the old stuff was.

  2. Thanks for the input Nik, I’m glad you didn’t get any symptoms. Question, has their recipe/ingredient list changed in 20 years?

    Safe levels of iodine are well known, so, we’ll see what the laywer says after seeing endrocrinologist’s advice.

    Cheers
    Tim

  3. Hi – I’m so glad that you took the time to speak out about Bonsoy and the way in which the company has handled the situation. My sister was recently diagnosed with Graves disease (a form of hyperthyroidism) which he also believed could have been directly related to her consumption of Bonsoy for months before the recall. Not does she now face the possibility of an operation to remove her thyroid, and being permanently medicated for the rest of her life, she had months of discomfort and has been seriously debilitated by her condition. If you hear of any possible class action law suit going ahead, please keep us informed because we would might like to get involved. Thanks again, Samantha.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to write, Sam.

    It’s a complicated issue, and I want to try and keep this as clear and fact-based as possible. Some have emailed questioning my motivation and the manner in which I am addressing this, and evening questioning the link to Bonsoy. However the problem is, that this seems to have touched many people, and many are completely in the dark. And that’s what I want to bring to light.

    Make sure you RSS feed the site to keep up to date.

    Tim

  5. Sam, just a quick follow up. I had a mate in an almost identical situation. His T4 was at 75 (safe for adult male is I think 10-19), but he happily is down around 45 last time I checked, so it’s improving.

    Hopefully your sister gives it a little more time, and things improve.

    I’ve contacted Slater and Gordon, and Maurice Blackburn, but both are not proceeding. I am looking at personal legal representation, and will keep you up to date.

    My understanding is that Spiral may settle a claim privately, but I have not gone down that route – I sent an email to them a week ago, but have not heard back.

    Tim

  6. I too have Graves disease. My GP and specialist believe it was caused by the Bonsoy. Luckily my T3 and T4 levels are dropping – slowly. I rang Slater and Gordon and gave my details but had not heard that they were not proceeding. I am extremely angry about this. Bonsoy was sold as a healthy food that made me sick, caused time off work, medical expenses and lifestyle change. I have emailed Spiral asking for compensation but have not had (and did not expect) a reply. Tim, congratulation on this site. Lets hope a class action ensues.

  7. Hi Richard,
    thanks for sharing.

    I have to say, I would rather not be congratulated on having to create the site, but, something needed to be done.

    Keep in touch (RSS) and as things progress, I shall update the site.

    Tim

  8. Hi Samantha,

    I was also a big Bonsoy drinker and I’ve been quite sick with Graves/Hyperthyroidism. I was facing the prospect of having my thyroid removed when my T4 continued to rise despite taking a lot of anti thyroid medication. Thankfully, my levels finally started to drop, so I encourage your sister to wait, if possible, and she might start seeing some improvement soon. I was diagnosed before the Bonsoy recall, and it took about 3 months to level off and start improving.

  9. Hi Tim,
    I sit here with hyperthyroidism and thyroid toxicosis and previously completely healthy.
    I am told my thyroid will resolve itself and go back to normal although I am not given a clear timespan. There is no history of thyroid disease in my family. It means the Graves and the hashimotos diseases, although investigated, are not present. This leads to the clear diagnosis for me, as excess iodine intake, being the cause. My Endocrinologist gave me that diagnosis. I drank 300-500mls per day for over 2 years.
    I am frustrated by the fact that there is no legislation on upper iodine amounts.
    I am interested in some compensation as this has been life shattering.
    At this stage I am focusing on recovery and keeping family life going. I will keep checking this site and am interested in how others are healing and also compensation updates. My motivation is clear. I do not wish to destroy any companies lifeblood however my life is worth a lot to me and many others.
    Kath

  10. Both my husband and myself had been drinking Bonsoy for about two and a half years and my husband has been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Has had blood tests, ultrasounds, a scan of his thyroid etc and the radiologist asked him if he had been consuming a high intake of iodine. She indicated the hyperthyroidism was from the intake of Bonsoy because of the high content of iodine. We are both so angry (I think I am more angry than him) that this could happen and that there doesn’t seem to be anywhere we can turn to. I also had contacted Slater & Gordon and was told that someone would contact me, but I still haven’t heard. This situation has caused a lot of anxiety to both of us and is still ongoing. I want someone to be made accountable for this grave mistake. I am glad that this web site is running and hopefully something positive will come out of it.

  11. Hi Geraldine,

    Thanks for your input. Does your husband have it in writing from the endocrinologist that the cause of his ill health was Bonsoy? I suggest you obtain this and then put this together with a letter of demand for compensation on the firm’s letter head, seeking compensation.

    Whilst I am very disappointed Slater and Gordon won’t proceed with a class action (there’s clearly a case to be made, my GP had a few choice words to say about the lack of a case), the best thing to do here is engage a lawyer. This is the process I am following now, and I will have an update soon.

    I can certainly understand your anger, in my opinion, Spiral’s action or lack thereof on this, has been very, very disappointing.

    Tim

  12. Hello Tim,
    Thanks for replying to my email. Bob, my husband, doesn’t have an appointment with an endocrinologist until June. As we live in Tasmania there are not that many specialists here. His GP has been seeing him and monitoring his thyroid function tests. When he had the thyroid scan the radiologist asked him if he had been taking iodine in his diet and when he mentioned Bonsoy she believed this had caused his thyrotoxicosis. His GP was amazed and in disbelief when we mentioned once again that he had been drinking Bonsoy with the kelp added. I haven’t been in contact with Spiral Foods, but maybe I should be emailing them with this history also.

  13. Hi, I too have had my life turned upside down. I have also been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and are waiting for results on Graves disease this week. My Dr believes that Bonsoy and the excess iodine is linked to me developing a goiter very rapidly and having the symptoms I have have been suffering, that are ramping up daily. I have never been so sick, I feel incredible debilitated at the moment and have spent so much money on trying to get well and treating so many things that have been going wrong. I have 3 young children and my mysterious illnesses over the last 5 months have affected all of us, apart from the fear and worry over what could be wrong with me. I have an app. with an endocrinologist ( more $$$$ ) and another naturopath that deals only with thyroid conditions so I’m hopeful to feel well again. P.s i am not a junk foody but a very passionate organic food consumer and grow most of my own veggies. I chose Bonsoy as apart of my lifestyle choices and also fed it to my children…I feel shattered at the moment both physically emotionally and am incredulous that so far no one wants to touch this issue legally…of course that will come down to numbers and how much a legal firm can hope to make. Meg

  14. Thanks for sharing your story, Meg. Stay in touch with news on the site as things progress.

    STILL no apology from Spiral.

    Tim

  15. Hi Geraldine,
    Definitely ring Spiral and talk to them about getting medical cost (and travel cost) compensation. Please keep us all in the loop as to what they say, as I want that to be a matter of public record.

    Tim

  16. Hi there,

    Can anyone who has tried to sue bonsoy please let me know if they have been successful or not.

    I think there is a story in this.

    Also anyone who has spent a large amount of money on treatment and disgnosis please let me know.

    Best regards
    Briana

  17. Hi there,

    Can anyone who has tried to sue bonsoy please let me know if they have been successful or not.

    I think there is a story in this.

    Also anyone who has spent a large amount of money on treatment and disgnosis and would wish to comment please let me know.

    jennaydom@yahoo.com.au

    Best regards
    Briana

  18. Thanks Briana,
    I will have some information re: legal action for you in a couple of weeks.

    I know there are a couple of people here who almost certainly should instigate legal action.

    I didn’t publish your other comment with your email.

    Tim

  19. hi tim,

    sorry i didnt realise i put my email there, yeah, please dont publish…

    please keep me in formed on whether any legal actions have been made.

    Best Regards

  20. Briana, I shall.
    There is certainly a story here; that is absolutely clear.

    Here’s the story.

    Company poisons people.
    People made very, very ill.
    No apology.
    Food Safety Victoria accountable for this case and identical case in 2005. They have questions to answer too.

    t

  21. Hi Tim, Thanks for the website. I am looking to engage a lawyer (I have left my details with Salter Gordon but they say it’ll be August before they decide if they’ll do anything). I am located to the south of Sydney and am wondering if other readers of the list are thinking about a Sydney-based lawyer? If so perhaps our cases would be strengthened by using the same one. I see the endocrinologist again in 3 weeks and will ask for a letter. Is there anything else I should do or ask him for?

  22. Richard,
    Slater and Gordon won’t proceed with anything unless they can level damages. Think, serious heart/thyroid damage (permanent), or constant issues (up to 3 years later), miscarriage etc.

    I’ll be putting a post up regarding legal stuff in the next day or so.

    In the meantime, aggregating cases under the one lawyer makes a lot of sense.

    Do you have a list of costs/days off? Drop me an email and I can point you in the right direction.

    Tim

  23. Briana – 2005 info here.

    Identical case involving a different manufacturer.

    In both cases, the same food safety body was the lead agency – there are issues that go to accountability here.

    Tim

  24. HI Tim, I am very interested in this… is there any chance I can talk to you in private..I dont want to do so on line… thanks Yashu.( ps I am a doctor)

  25. Hi Tim

    I have a very similar story to you. I have had my life turned upside down. From late last year I began to become gravely ill, lost over ten kilos of weight, could not sleep, suffered terrible anxiety, muscle cramps and could not get my heart rate below 100bpm for months. I even had to resign from a multi million dollar per year high profile job.

    I collapsed after a bout of excercise and thought I was dying. This event led to me being diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and thyrotoxicosis. The cause was excessive iodine in my bloodstream. With no other source of iodine and a consumer of around 500ml of bonsoy per day (about 17 times the upper tolerable limit of iodine for a male adult per day) there is the case for a strong link between Bonsoy and my thyriod disease. My specialist endocrinoligist has confirmed this.

    I am interested in funding the action myself and helping those who have suffered terribly like me. The negligence of spriral foods is beyond belief. The same product (kombu) in soymilk poisoned many people in New Zealand a few years back.

  26. Hi Colin,
    thanks for putting your story up.

    Given your previous position, I think you should get in contact with the lawyer mentioned detailed in this post: http://thebonsoydebacle.com.au/news/potential-class-action-your-details-needed/

    Given the salary you’ve given up (not to mention future earnings) I’d say that your loss of earnings + medicals would put you in a strong position for damages (according to state regulations).

    The lawyer mentioned (from Maurice Blackburn) was collecting the names of affected individuals to see if the aggregated costs made the case viable from a class action perspective.

    There’d need to be a lead plaintiff, and I think there are probably two candidates right now.

    If the class action does not proceed, I’d be interested in discussing the action you describe further – it’s a generous offer to fund the case yourself, and if successful, would certainly set a precedent.

    Tim

  27. I drank Bonsoy for at least two years, every day.
    During the last few months my health symptoms such as lethargy, dizzy spells, and difficulty sleeping have escalated to include such symptoms as waking up feeling clammy all over, shaky hands, and generally feeling unwell.
    Recently while on holidays, I ended up in hospital for four days due to Atrial Fibrillation. For thirty hours straight I had an irregular heartbeat where my heart randomly jumped around from between 110 – 158 bpm. After spending time with both my Cardiologist and Endocrinologist it was clearly stated that my hyperthyroidism and thyrotoxicosis was caused by drinking Bonsoy.
    I am still in disbelief while sitting at home – on sick leave – pumping myself full of drugs and dealing with their side effects.
    Like other people here, I feel cheated, I feel lied to, and most importantly I feel my health has seriously been threatened. What concerns me even more is the amount of people who may be unaware that their current health problems could quite easily be caused by high Iodine levels.
    Please keep me updated if there is any progress with your efforts, and thank you for starting this initiative.
    regards
    Andrew

  28. hi,
    I’m really sorry for all of you that have been affected by the over consumption of iodine. It is really unfair, especially when you put faith in an organic product. However, being a bonsoy drinker myself, I must say that I have had health problems which I believe are caused by other foods and products (not bonsoy), which as someone wrote previously are legal and sold everywhere.
    Which leads me to think that it is about being aware of what ingredients go into foods and having a data base of knowledge, so that everyone can make their own decision accordingly.
    I agree that being pride on ‘good for your health’ products, spirals should have been more careful but unfortunately very few products can assure you 100% safety. There should be a disclaimer on the product about certain ingredients. As much as I see the desire for class action against bonsoy, I hesitate to agree with it, as although we should be able to trust what we buy, there are so many products that are health hazardous, that I would branch them together and not isolate bonsoy- as what spirals does on a daily basis(being organic etc) is much more beneficial than all the crap you can get readily.
    SO it should be about making products either have disclaimers with clear ingredients and quantities, so that we can make the informed choice.

  29. Thanks for your comment Donna.

    As to to your comment that you hesitate to agree with the Class Action. So, if 500-1000 people were made really sick by say, peanut butter, with some people experiencing life changing health effects (like a removal of a bodily organ), or losing many, many thousands of dollars in earning capacity due to having to quit a job, you’d be cool with that?

    What about if a factory was releasing poisonous gas near a housing estate and causing cancer or some other illness….still cool?

    It’s the exact same thing.

    Bonsoy is marketed as a healthy product. For a very long time, it was anything but healthy.

    Your comments about food labelling are apt, but a debate for another time.

    Cheers,
    Tim

  30. One cannot compare Bonsoy to a factory emitting poisonous gas. The ingredient used is naturally high in iodine, the ingredient was also listed on the bottle. And people do die from peanut butter every year due to allergies, yet the onus is placed on that individual, and is not dealt with by suing a peanut butter company. This is an issue of consumer awareness. Bonsoy was often consumed daily, so perhaps it would have been courteous for Bonsoy to mention that daily consumption may carry risks. But beyond that i think the onus is on the consumer to be smarter and to google ingredients rather than assume that organic = right for me.

  31. I don’t mean to defend Bonsoy, i want you guys to have a strong case. I think comparing seaweed to poison is weakening your case.

  32. I did not make a comparison of this nature.

    Fortunately, a judge was presiding over the judgement in law.

  33. This is a seriously silly comment.

    There are so many inconsistencies and poor analogies I don’t know where to begin, but I’ll bite.

    1. Comparing peanut butter to Bonsoy is an inappropriate comparison and poor analogy. Peanut butter as a rule does not cause serious health issues in almost everyone who consumes it. Bonsoy did. If peanut butter had an ingredient that started causing consumers en masse to start experiencing serious health issues, the peanut butter company would be at fault. Here’s an example: recent cases of peanut butter that caused salmonella poisoning.
    2. One can certainly compare people people being made sick from something with a factory.
    3. The general public are not nutritionists, food scientists or endocrinologists. I’ll let you work out the impact of that fact and how it relates to your comment.
    4. Onus on consumers to be smarter. That’s also a bizarre statement.

    I’d have emailed you directly and not published your comment in order to pass my feedback on, but you’ve used a fake email address.

    You’ll note the class action was settled for A$25M so obviously Bonsoy and co-defendents were found to be at fault, or, had the matter gone to trial, were very likely to have found to be (which is why they settled).

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