Restaurants Cooking Fries in Soybean Oil – Top 8 Allergen

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I went to the local Red Robin with my husband in March 2022 hoping for one of their delicious hamburgers. It had been months since the last time we visited so I was anxious to get our order placed and the food in my belly!

When the server came to my table I asked if the buns had soy in them. She looked up the info on the table-tablet and discovered that none of their buns had soy in them. That seemed highly unlikely but didn’t get into an argument. I suppose it could be true but often most restaurants have bread that uses soy flour and I am left to get a lettuce wrap instead.

So, good news, right! I went with the sesame seed bun that comes with the hamburger I ordered and proceeded to wait for our food. I also ordered their chocolate shake that I’ve always loved.

A little while later, the server and the manager came up to my table and inform me that the French fries were cooked in soybean oil. I was shocked!

Unfortunately, the onion rings and the Mozzarella sticks were also cooked in soybean oil. The only option they had for me was a house salad or broccoli. I did not want either one and even if I wanted salad, more than likely, the salad dressing would also have soy in it. Most dressings are made with soybean oil.

That was at the beginning of a rather disappointing dinner.

The guacamole on the hamburger didn’t taste right to me and when the chocolate shake arrived, it didn’t taste very chocolatey.

Now at this point I had already eaten some of the mozzarella sticks before they told me it was cooked in soybean oil. Luckily I do not have horrible medical effects from eating soy but the restaurant doesn’t know that!

How does it affect me? Well, I get intense sharp pains throughout my stomach and intense sharp pains up and down my spine. There have been times I’ve left a restaurant and had difficulty breathing but I don’t know if that was from soy or something else.

On this occasion I arrived at the restaurant with a headache so I can’t say for sure if the soy gave me a headache or not but I had a far worse one when I left.

I decided to do some research once I got home and I pulled up the website for Red Robin looking for the same information that the server found while I was there. Sure enough I found it and it was exactly the same.

On the website I clicked the dot next to the word soy and proceeded to look at all of the things I could eat while also avoiding soy. The website confirmed salad and broccoli.

On their website was a question/answer section with the following:

Question: Why are steak fries not recommended for guests avoiding some allergies.

Answer: While our steak fries do not include wheat, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish nor milk, and Red Robin does not have a dedicated fryer for cooking our steak fries, it is not recommended to consume the steak fries if you are trying to avoid these allergens due to possible cross contact in our fryer station.

That sounds great but think about that for a second. The restaurant is stating that their fries do not have soy in them but they then cook them in soybean oil. They might as well put soy in the fries, for crying out loud!

Then I looked at another website called Allergy Eats where they host an article about Red Robin and allergens. Their site says the following…

As online discussions have heated up, many food-allergic individuals shared information that didn’t fit with what we’ve learned about Red Robin over the years, so we went straight to the top of Red Robin’s management team to get the most up-to-date information for you. Within minutes, senior management from the food safety and allergy information teams made themselves available to answer our questions.

Below is one of the questions they asked Red Robin.

Does any Red Robin restaurant now, or in the planned future, use peanut oil in any fryers.

Good question! Here is the answer…

No. Red Robin uses a fully refined soybean oil, an item which is not considered a big 8 allergen by the FDA.

Now I find that very, very interesting. Really? They actually think that soybean oil is not a big 8 allergen?

So guess what I did. That’s right, I went to the FDA website and guess what they show there. The major food allergens (the Big 8) which are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans.

So either the person who wrote the article or the person interviewed literally thinks soybean oil is not the same thing as soybean or they are woefully misinformed or they’re lying. How can they say or think that soybean, or soybean oil, is not considered a big 8 by the FDA.

Now this leads me to wonder just how many restaurants are using soybean oil to cook their fried foods. Is this why I leave restaurants with headaches or can’t breathe well or have stomach pains?

I know soy is cheap and probably cheaper than canola oil or vegetable oil but it is a top allergen and should be avoided. The fact soy is in some food items is something the consumer needs to be aware of and avoid but frying or cooking food in soybean oil leaves the consumer with no other option. Offering broccoli instead of French fries is ridiculous.

I realize there are many regulations for restaurants that they have to follow and they can’t necessarily list every allergy known to man but soy is a major allergen and they should inform the consumer that they are using soybean oil to COOK the food that they are making not just that there is soy in a product.

I don’t order salads at a restaurant because I know there will be soybean oil in the salad dressing. I avoid it, it’s my responsibility. But if you’re going to cook your food in soybean oil then I can’t eat at your restaurant and there are probably thousands of others who can’t as well.

The fact that the server came to me and said that there was an issue with the French fries is commendable and now I’m wondering how many other restaurants I’ve gone to wherein I was served food cooked in soy. Sadly this means I’m going to have to ask even more detailed questions at every restaurant I go to in order to protect myself.

There was another question on the Allergy Eats website that sparked a bit more shock. In that question (below), Red Robin claimed they changed their recipe for chicken to remove the major allergen otherwise known as soy. Looking at the comments below the article, I found someone just as frustrated as I am.

Check out this question under the article!

I am going to add a little humor here about my past interactions with servers and the issue of soy. When I discovered I was allergic to soy I was quite depressed because I love sushi and I love mixing wasabi with soy sauce. Well guess what I couldn’t do anymore.

So when I order sushi I can’t get anything that has a sauce on it because they are usually made with mayonnaise which has soybean oil as one of the first ingredients. And I can’t get eel sauce because it has soy sauce in it. And there are other things I need to avoid. So inevitably I tell the server I can’t eat soy and ask if there’s soy sauce or soy in the item I’m ordering.

So they’ll ask me one of the two following questions that always cracks me up.

Would you like some low sodium soy sauce?

Or

Would you like some gluten free soy sauce?

I very politely tell them no but what I want to say is “do you have any soy free soy sauce”? It just cracks me up when they ask me those questions and all I can do is laugh about it.

What’s even funnier is when they bring edamame as an appetizer. I’m like, those are soybeans.  

There is one lady at a local restaurant I go to quite often who automatically brings me low sodium soy sauce because she knows there’s something about me that’s different.

I just tell her thank you because at least she’s trying to remember my situation. Those are the kinds of people I appreciate even if they don’t get it quite right.

As I wrap up this thought, I wonder how long places have been using soybean oil rather than canola or vegetable oil. I thought perhaps it was a new thing due to the economy but obviously Red Robin has been using it since at least as far back as the article on Allergy Eats which was written in 2017.  

It is extremely frustrating that Red Robin would put out a statement saying that soybean is not a major allergen when it most definitely is.  If restaurants use something I can’t eat and I’m unable to avoid it because they cook their food in it, then there’s nothing more I can do.

Pictures from Pixabay; Article screen shots from their website

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