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Milk Protein Allergies: Spotting Problems on Food Labels

With a food allergy, it’s always important for you to know what you’re eating. Reading labels is your best way to stay safe. Here are some tips and tricks to make it work for you.

Any packaged food has to show on the label if it contains milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or soybeans. Look on the food label -- "Contains: Milk" -- or the ingredients list.

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Milk Protein: Words to Watch For

If you're allergic to milk protein and you see one of these names in the ingredients list, don't buy it.

  • Butter
  • Buttermilk
  • Casein, casein hydrolysate, and caseinates
  • Cheese
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cream
  • Curds
  • Diacetyl
  • Ghee
  • Lactalbumin
  • Lactoferrin
  • Lactose and lactulose
  • Milk (all types)
  • Recaldent
  • Rennet casein
  • Sour cream
  • Whey (in all forms)
  • Yogurt

Where Milk Hides

  • Baked goods and cake mixes
  • Hot dogs and deli meat
  • Indian food, where ghee (a form of butter) is very common
  • Gravies
  • Battered and fried foods
  • Vegetarian cheese and soy cheese
  • Protein powders
  • Granola bars
  • Cereal

How to Choose Safe Foods

  • Stick with packaged and labeled foods. Foods from salad bars, deli counters, and bakeries are more likely to accidentally have your allergy triggers in them.
  • Read food labels every time you buy a product -- even if it's something you buy every week. Food manufacturers change ingredients all the time. A food that has been safe for you and your family may not always be.
  • If you see an ingredient you're not sure about, be careful. Look it up first. Consider contacting the manufacturer if you need more info.
  • Buying a different size or low-fat version? Read food labels. Low-fat or reduced-calorie versions of familiar foods may have very different ingredients. Sizing (like snack-sized packs) or packaging (a can vs. a carton) can affect ingredients. Some products may have different ingredients in different parts of the country.
  • Check labels on medications and toiletries. Food allergens can show up in drugs, cosmetics, shampoos, soaps, and lotions.
  • Do ask and tell. At restaurants, let the staff, servers, managers, cooks, or chef know about your food allergy and special accommodations that you might need. Don’t be afraid to ask how a dish is prepared. Sometimes it can be hard to tell everything that is in a dish based on how it is listed on the menu. Plain, simply prepared foods are your best bet.
  • Avoid processed foods that are high in protein. They could contain milk proteins, casein, or whey.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on November 20, 2014

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