Non-Dairy Does Not Mean Milk Free
Have you ever used non-dairy creamer? Have you ever read the ingredient list?
When I first stopped eating dairy I assumed that non-dairy creamer would be an easy milk substitute to use in my coffee. When I actually read the label, I was shocked to find the “contains: milk” allergen statement at the end of the ingredient list. With a little research, I found out most non-dairy creamers and many non-dairy products contain casein or caseinates, which are milk protein and/or its derivatives.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – food labeling is deceptive. ALWAYS read the full ingredient list. Just because an item does not contain whole milk (which I mean as proteins plus sugar), does not mean it is free of dairy, as some food labels would have you believe.
According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Food Allergy Research and Resource Program, “A regulatory definition does exist for the term, non-dairy. But, incredibly, the regulatory definition actually allows the presence of the milk protein, casein, in such products. Non-dairy is commonly used on coffee creamers made from caseinate, a milk protein, rather than milk or cream. The term, non-dairy, is a long-standing byproduct of the strong dairy lobby that wanted to assure that substitute milk and cream products could not bear the dairy name.
Non-dairy definitely does not mean that the product is milk-free. FDA regulations specifically allow the use of caseinates (and casein is one of the major milk allergens) in non-dairy products. However, the term, caseinate, will appear in the ingredient statement and must be followed by a parenthetical explanation, such as (a milk derivative). While non-dairy is a term that is frequently used on coffee creamers, it is also used similarly on various other products containing caseinates. Once again, careful inspection of the ingredient statement is the consumers best defense.”
Have you come across any non-dairy products that contain milk ingredients? Please share in the comments section.