Grocery shopping for a family with food allergies can be extremely challenging. It’s even more difficult when you are shopping for someone with a cow milk allergy because dairy ingredients can get lost in the food labels.
It’s very important to know where dairy is hiding. The FDA labeling laws require that foods containing milk must be labeled that they “contain milk.” This has to appear near the list of ingredients. However, several food and non-food products are not covered by FDA labeling laws, and small-batch “local” food producers aren’t always aware of the law. For that reason, it is extremely important to know how to read labels for milk products. Below are several products that you might not have realized contain milk that you should be on the lookout for:
Store-bought crackers- Several brands of store-bought crackers contain butter and/or milk powder. Make sure to check the ingredient label to be safe!
Granola mixes- Before picking up a granola mix, make sure the mix does not contain any butter. You can find granola mixes that are oil-based and do not contain any dairy. It’s always the safest to make granola mixes yourself so you know exactly what is in them.
Canned tuna– Several brands of canned tuna have casein in them, which is a milk protein. You might not think it, but some canned-tuna brands include hydrolyzed caseinate to enhance flavor.
Instant potatoes- It’s very important to read the ingredient label of instant mashed potatoes! Several manufacturers add butter and milk before they dehydrate the potato mix.
Flavored chips- The flavoring that is added to potato chips may contain milk. To avoid this hidden dairy ingredient, we recommend snacking on regular chips or completely eliminating them.
Deli meats- Meat manufactures often use the same slicers for meat and cheese products. The deli meats also sometimes contain casein, which is a milk protein.
Broths and stocks – Some brands include milk proteins or solids into their mixes. This applies to both ready-to-use versions as well as dry and canned bouillon.
Medications and vitamins- When checking the labels, watch out for ingredients that contain milk proteins like whey.
Beauty products – This is a big category. Items that you use on a regular basis like shampoo, conditioner, soap, makeup, etc. may contain milk. While you need to ingest these proteins to trigger an allergic reaction, using products that contain these ingredients topically (i.e you’re your skin) might spark a skin reaction, like a rash or hives, for some people with a cow milk allergy.
Other items we came across in our searches that have popped up with the potential to contain milk proteins:
- Dustless chalk
- Chewing gum
- Ready-to-eat meals
- Instant iced-teas
- Instant coffee/hot chocolate
- Latex items, like gloves
- Nail polish
To help you find hidden milk ingredients, here’s a great chart that Kids with Food Allergies put together. It provides a comprehensive list of terms that can indicate milk-derived ingredients that you should keep an eye out for on product labels.
If you are uncertain whether or not a product contains milk, it’s always best to call and inquire with the manufacturer of the product. If they are unable to guarantee that the product is dairy free, lean on the side of caution and stay away. And make sure to ALWAYS check: a brand or food that was dairy-free yesterday could change any time!
For more information, check out our comprehensive list of foods with dairy ingredients. We also have a Recipe Booklet full of delicious dairy-free Neocate recipes.
Have you recently found any foods that have hidden dairy ingredients?