Food and Ingredients to Avoid on a Milk-Free Diet

Girl gasping while baking
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Milk allergy is a common condition, particularly among children. Reactions range from difficulty breathing, wheezing, and throat tightness to urticaria and/or vomiting.

Avoiding milk—and all products or ingredients made with milk compounds like casein—is essential if you suffer from this allergy. That's why manufacturers must include milk and milk ingredients on their product labels, as outlined in the Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). The following voluntary statements indicate that food may be contaminated with milk:

  • “May contain milk”
  • “Product produced on shared equipment with milk”
  • “Made in a facility that also processes milk”

Food and Ingredients That Contain Milk

It's straightforward enough to look for the word "milk" on a package, but milk can be turned into new foods, like ghee and lactoferrin. According to the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University, it's important to look out for these foods and phrases on labels:

  • Butter (including artificial butter and artificial butter flavor)
  • Buttermilk
  • Casein and caseinates (ammonium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium—certain vaccines like those for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis contain casein)
  • Cheese (including cottage cheese, cream cheese, imitation cheese, quark, and vegetarian cheeses with casein)
  • Cream
  • Curds 
  • Custard 
  • Ghee 
  • Half-and-half 
  • Hydrolysates (casein, milk protein, protein, whey, whey protein)
  • Ice cream (including ice milk and gelato)
  • Lactalbumin and lactalbumin phosphate 
  • Lactoferrin
  • Lactoglobulin
  • Lactose 
  • Milk (derivative, protein, solids, malted, condensed, evaporated, dry, whole, low-fat, nonfat, and skim)
  • Nougat 
  • Recaldent (dental product)
  • Rennet and rennet casein 
  • Simplesse (fat substitute) 
  • Sour cream, sour cream solids, and imitation sour cream
  • Whey (acid, cured, delactosed, demineralized, hydrolyzed, powdered, reduced mineral, sweet dairy, protein, protein concentrate, powder, and solids)
  • Yogurt (regular or frozen) and yogurt powder

Ingredients That May Contain Milk

In some foods, milk isn't the most obvious ingredient, as in certain baking flours or candy. For instance, "non-dairy" and "lactose-free" doesn't necessarily mean an item doesn't have milk-containing ingredients. Make sure to read labels carefully with the following products:

  • Brown sugar flavoring
  • Caramel
  • Chocolate
  • High protein flour
  • Deli meat, hot dogs, and sausages
  • Margarine
  • Natural flavoring
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Article Sources

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  1. Wood RA, Sicherer SH, Vickery BP, et al. The natural history of milk allergy in an observational cohort. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013;131(3):805-12. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2012.10.060

  2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. Updated July 16, 2018.

  3. Stanford Children's Health. Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. Milk Allergy Diet for Children.

  4. Kattan J, Konstantinou G, Cox A et al. Anaphylaxis to diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccines among children with cow’s milk allergyJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2011;128(1):215-218. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2011.04.046