Surprising Foods that Contain Milk

Unlikely Foods with Milk

Milk isn't always obvious. Southern Stock/ Getty Images

If you’re allergic to milk, you know how to look for it. Code words like “dairy” are an obvious red flag. Ingredient labels and warnings on packages, as mandated by the Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), let you know where milk and its by-products are lurking.

If you’re like many people with food allergies, you stick to the foods you know and go from there. As food products are subject to change, even some of the most knowledgeable food-allergic people get surprised.

It’s happened to me!

Milk is one of the top food allergies that are the most common among food-allergic adults and children. Even though milk allergy tends to be outgrown in childhood, it still pays to know where it is hiding. Carry your milk ingredient code words for reference, especially when you branch out and try a new food product.

In the meantime, here are 18 foods that contain milk (or many contain milk) that might surprise you:

Goat’s milk: While not identical to cow’s milk protein, goat’s milk and other animal-based milk like sheep’s milk have similar milk proteins and may cause an allergic reaction. It is recommended that milk allergic individuals avoid other animal-based milk.

Lactaid milk: This is designed for individuals with lactose intolerance, not a milk allergy. Lactaid milk contains milk protein (casein and whey) but has had the milk sugar (lactose) removed.

Nougat: Typically found in candy bars like 3 Musketeers and Snickers in the United States, nougat is generally made with honey, sugar, nuts, egg whites and possibly milk powder, although ingredients may vary.

Always check the label for ingredients, or ask about them.

Simplesse: A fat replacer made from egg and milk protein (whey) used as a fat substitute in low-calorie food products like ice cream, yogurt, cheese spread, salad dressings, margarine, mayonnaise, coffee creamer, soups, and sauces. Simplesse is a trademark name so you may not find it listed as an ingredient.

Instead, you may see “egg and milk protein.”

Sherbet: Yes, this is made with fruit, water, and sugar, but it may include egg whites, milk or gelatin. Many brands of sherbet sold in grocery stores contain milk fat or cream. If you want a similar product, go for sorbet, which is made from fruit, water, and sugar. But double-check the ingredient label to be safe!

Deli meat: Deli meat slicers are frequently used for both meat and cheese products. They also may contain casein (milk protein) to act as a binder.

Hot dogs: Milk proteins may be added to hot dogs as an extender or filler. This allows the manufacturer to use less meat overall. Manufacturers are not required to list allergy ingredients, as meats, in general, are not subject to FALCPA.

Dips and salad dressings: Any dips made with milk, yogurt or sour cream, such as ranch or bleu cheese, may contain milk.

Sausage: Similar to deli meats, milk protein may be used as a filler or extender in the processing of sausages like hard salami, Italian sausages or breakfast sausage.

Pate: Animal liver such as beef or chicken may be soaked in milk to remove blood (which gives an off taste) prior to cooking, seasoning and pureeing into a pate. Read ingredient labels or ask how the pate was prepared prior to consuming.

Soy or rice cheese: These may be manufactured in a plant or on a factory line that also produces milk-containing products. The risk for ​cross-contamination may be significant.

Kefir: Made from animal milk like cow’s milk and mixed with kefir grains. The result is a thick, smoothie-like drink. Most do contain milk protein. Try this milk-free smoothie instead.

Tuna fish: Some brands of canned tuna fish contain casein, a milk protein.

Instant mashed potatoes: Read the ingredient label on these spuds! As a dehydrated potato product, some manufacturers add butter and/or milk before dehydrating, so that the end result is a tastier product.

Shellfish: How do you cut the stinky smell of fish? Dip it in milk! Well, that’s how some manufacturers contain the smell. Ask first before you buy.

Steak: Have you ever noticed how juicy and glistening a steak can be as it is walked to your restaurant table? Unfortunately, this is one of the perils of dining out and may be due to plopping a pat of butter on top. We know butter is made from milk. Don't risk it--ask for your steak “naked” --with no added ingredients.

Medicine: Some medications contain whey (a milk protein), so read the labels or ask your pharmacist.

Chewing gum: Look for milk protein ingredients here, like Recaldent, made from casein and found in chewing gum brands such as Trident.

Which foods with milk surprised you?


Various food manufacturer sites.

Continue Reading