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Illinois Prisoners Sue Over Soy Diet

By Prescott Carlson in Food on Dec 21, 2009 6:20PM

Photo by sylvar
The Illinois Department of Corrections has found itself on the wrong end of a lawsuit due to its supposed over-reliance on soy protein in prisoner diets. The department started serving "soy-enhanced" items in 2004 as a way to cut costs.

But attorneys for the Weston A. Price Foundation, who is funding the lawsuit on the behalf of 9 plaintiffs, say that the prisons are serving too much soy and "endangering the health of the inmates." The suit claims that prisoners are served upwards of 100 grams of soy protein a day, which is four times the amount recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. To put that in perspective, a typical soy burger contains 14 grams of soy protein, and a slice of soy cheese usually contains 2 grams. The prisoners generally have little choice but to eat the soy, which is even sometimes added to baked goods.

The complaint states that the 9 prisoners are "suffering irreparable, actual harm by being forced to continue to eat food that has too much soy in it," and that they have suffered from allergies, thyroid dysfunction, heart problems, and gastrointestinal distress from their diet. The suit seeks compensatory damages as well as blocking Illinois prisons from serving soy altogether. Fallon told the Trib that she suggests Illinois prisons return to their old methods of food production:

"Ten years ago many prisoners grew their own food," she said. "They raised their beef, their chicken, their vegetables and there was enough left over to sell it on the open market. ... We need to go back to that at prisons all over the country, teach them skills, get them outdoors in the sunlight with animals, eating real nutritious foods so they can truly be rehabilitated back into society."

Fallon also hinted that after she's finished with the IDOC, they might set their sites on the Chicago Public Schools, saying she's "concerned" about the "pilot program to bring this kind of diet to the schools, to growing children."