Guest article by Mira Dessy
Mira was one of my speakers for the event: Your Vibrant Life Summit: Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise. We talked about what’s lurking in your pantry. This article is a great supplement to our discussion and focuses on milk. Mira Dessy is A certified nutrition educator, The Ingredient Guru, and author of The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in your food.
Developed for the California Milk Processor Board in 1993, Got Milk? was a campaign to help sell more milk. It was apparently successful in California but not so much in the rest of the country. It was a cute campaign with a lot of celebrities painted in milk mustaches among other visuals.
But the concept of “got milk?” takes on a different connotation when you can’t have milk or dairy products. It’s important to note that just because a product is labeled lactose free that does not mean that it is dairy free. When there’s an allergy it is a matter of concern about whether or not there is dairy in what you are eating. Reading the ingredient panel on packaged foods there are a lot of ingredients to watch out for that are derived from milk and which need to be avoided:
In addition to these ingredients there are a number of surprising items which are derived from dairy or that may contain dairy. It’s not always clear and you may not be aware of what to watch out for:
- artificial sweeteners
- baked goods (many of these are unlabeled)
- bath products
- breath mints
- canned tuna fish (may contain hydrolyzed caseinate)
- chewing gum (may contain milk protein)
- medications (if this is a concern talk with your pharmacist)
- hot dogs
- lunch meat (cross contamination may also be an issue)
- margarine (while these are not butter, they may not be dairy free)
- potato chips
- soy cheese (some of them still include dairy)
- spice mixes (may contain whey powder)
- whipped topping (these are marketed as “non-dairy” but often contain casein)
While that’s a lot to keep track of, for those who have a significant, life threatening allergy to dairy it is critical that they are aware of what’s in what they are eating. Because dairy is one of the seven top allergens in this country it does need to appear on the label as an allergy statement like the example below:
Another labeling example is when foods do not necessarily have dairy products in them but are made in a facility that also processes dairy.
While labeling might show if there’s dairy in packaged foods, this all goes out the window when eating out at a restaurant or at someone else’s home. It’s possible to ask if there’s dairy in a product and be told no but to discover that it’s finished with butter. In those who have a sensitivity to dairy and remove it from their diet, an accidental exposure may cause a heightened reaction as the body reacts more strongly to the substance it’s trying to clear.
For those with life threatening allergies to dairy any exposure poses a dangerous situation. Be aware of your setting and the possibility of exposure. It’s important to ask if your food allergen is in the meal that you are being served. It can also be helpful to use a Food Allergy Buddy Card (available for free download).
Mira Dessy is A certified nutrition educator, The Ingredient Guru, and author of The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in your food. Mira is a professional member of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior, and the American Holistic Health Association. She speaks frequently to lay people and nutrition professionals on how to navigate the grocery store’s mammoth packaged food stock, to decipher confusing food labels, understand the relationship of food additives to poor health, and to find real food. She believes it’s not just what you eat, but what’s in what you eat. Her motto is “Eat well to be well.”