Hidden Sources of Milk & Dairy

Hidden Sources of Dairy by The Allergy Chef

Dairy can be found in just about every corner of the grocery store. We’re going to break it down for you so you can spot dairy in the wild and avoid it. If you have a severe dairy allergy, you’ll need to assess if you’re able to tolerate food made on shared equipment with dairy, as well as a shared facility with dairy.

Dairy Definition

When it comes to dairy, you may hear terms such as:

  • Lactose/Lactose Free
  • Whey
  • Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy (CMPA)
  • Casein
  • Ghee
  • Milk Fat
  • Milk Solids
  • Milk Powder

The conventional definition of dairy (where food allergies are concerned) is: food made from or containing dairy. The dairy can come from Buffalo, Camel, Cow, Goat, and Sheep.

Different Parts of Milk

Casein: The main protein present in milk and cheese.

Ghee: Clarified butter made from the milk of a buffalo or cow. Some feel this is “dairy free” since it’s the fat content and the protein is removed.

Lactose: The sugar present in milk.

Whey: The watery part of milk that remains after the formation of curds.

Reading Labels

All over the world, dairy is considered a major allergen, which should make identifying it on a food label easier. However, this is not always the case. Some labels may say “may contain traces of dairy” or “contains milk” or “made on shared equipment with milk”, etc.

Before consuming products, it’s important that you call to learn more about the sourcing of raw materials, how the food is processed, stored, and packaged. Each step in manufacturing can expose the product to something you’re allergic to, including dairy.

Some companies are putting their best food forward by creating pages on their website that list all of these details for each product. A great example of this is Simple Mills.

Hidden Sources of Milk and Dairy

Now that you have a little primer on dairy itself, let’s look at hidden sources of dairy. We consider these sources “hidden” as most people wouldn’t think, “oh, that has dairy in it”.

  • Baby Formula
  • Baked Goods (cookies, cupcakes, pastries, pies, etc.)
  • Baking Mixes (bread, brownies, cake, cookies, pancakes)
  • Bread
  • Broth
  • Caramel
  • Cereal
  • Chocolate (items containing chocolate usually have milk mixed into the chocolate)
  • Crackers
  • “Dairy Free” Cheese
  • “Dairy Free” Ice Cream (some are lactose free only, some sherbets are an issue as well)
  • Deli/Lunch Meat
  • Drink Mixes
  • Ghee
  • Granola Bars
  • Gravy
  • Instant Potatoes
  • Margarine
  • Medication
  • Potato Chips (usually found in flavored chips rather than plain sea salt)
  • Protein Powders
  • Salad Dressing
  • Supplements

Non-Food Items

Like gluten, (parts of) dairy can also be found in non-food items. This becomes an issues for people who are contact allergic to dairy. Some examples include:

  • Adhesives
  • Bath & Body Products
  • Paint
  • Industrial Materials

Easy Ways to Avoid Milk and Dairy

Shop trusted brands, especially if you’re newly diagnosed. RAISE Members have access to our Safe Product Guides.

Make food at home. When you start with clean raw materials in your safe kitchen, the end result is clean food, every time.

Avoid products made in shared facilities and/or on shared equipment with dairy. There have been several recalls as of late for undisclosed dairy. Honestly, this terrifies me the most, which is why in our home, shared facility food is a no-go for our kid with a dairy allergy.

Further Reading & Resources:

Want to dig even deeper? Awesome! Here are more resources to keep you informed.

Become a RAISE Member. Members have access to 150+ dairy free recipes, products, guides, seminars, and more.

Spokin App: a personalized app for info on food allergies

Allergy Eats: an app to find places to eat out, based on user generated reviews.

SnackSafely.com offers a product guide to get you started.

Go Dairy Free has a great page on hidden dairy.

Kelly Mom has a handy pdf with more items.

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