We know it can be frustrating when you casually check the label on a food item and find it to contain dairy. We have even seen a few dairy ingredients snuck into hummus in the past which can make you wonder ….can you really avoid dairy in packaged food items?

Yes, but there are some tricks to make it easier.

Though the U.S. Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires food manufacturers to identify on product labels the presence of any milk ingredients, you still have to know what terms to look for in order to avoid those dairy ingredients. Terminology in the food business can be deviously deceptive.

For instance, a product might be labeled as ‘nondairy’ and yet still contain milk proteins. With the explosion in the numbers of processed food products in grocery stores, even those products claiming to be ‘healthy’ frequently contain dairy products as hidden ingredients. You will find them in such products as boxed cereals, crackers, granola bars, ‘energy’ bars, and even as a staple ingredient in many vegetarian ‘meat’ products.

Here are some commonly used label terms you should look for that may indicate the presence of milk components:

—casein or caseniates (the protein found in all dairy products)
—whey or whey protein concentrate (another protein in all dairy products)
—artificial butter flavor
—butter fat
—butter oil
—caramel color
—curd
—custard
—dry milk solids
—ghee
—lactalbumin
—lactoglobulin
—lactoferrin
—lactulose
—rennet
—Simpless

If the food label says ‘Dairy-free,’ it is supposed to actually be free of any dairy products. But you still need to exercise caution and carefully read the labels because food manufacturers have become skilled at skirting the labeling laws to hide the identity of many ingredients. Reading labels may not help you when it comes to synthetic (non plant-based) vitamins and supplements, or cosmetics and personal care products. Milk-based ingredients are often used in these products and none are covered by the labeling laws that apply to food stuffs. So buyer beware!

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