Government of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Milk Allergy

PDF (395 kb)

In addition to the general information about food allergies, here are some issues that people with a milk allergy should know about.

Milk allergy or lactose intolerance

A milk allergy occurs when a person's immune system reacts abnormally to milk proteins; it can be life-threatening. Intolerance to lactose occurs when a person can't digest lactose, a primary component of milk, because their body doesn't produce enough of a specific enzyme. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea. If you are unsure whether you have a milk allergy or are lactose intolerance, consult an allergist.

Outgrowing a milk allergy

Studies suggest that while up to four percent of infants are allergic to milk, for many of these infants, the allergy will disappear within three years. A severe milk allergy, though, can be a lifelong condition. Consult your allergist before reintroducing your child to milk products.

Read the labels

If you're allergic to milk, the only way to avoid a reaction is to avoid all food and products that contain milk and milk derivatives. Don't eat a food or product if the label has precautionary statements such as "may contain milk". Read ingredient lists carefully and learn to identify other names for milk, such as lactose and casein. Do not consume a food or product if there is no ingredient list or if there is a risk they might have been in contact with milk. If there is not enough information to make a decision, you can always call to ask the company or speak to a knowledgeable person at a restaurant.

Sources of milk

The proteins in cow's milk are very similar to those found in milk from goats, sheep and other ruminants (such as deer or buffalo). Therefore, people who are allergic to cow's milk may also experience reactions to the milk of other ruminants. Consult your allergist before consuming milk or products made from the milk of goats, sheep or other ruminants.

Because of its high protein content and its value as an emulsifying and texturizing agent, milk is common in many processed foods. Carefully review ingredient lists on all processed food to identify sources of milk.

Common sources of milk

  • Butter, Buttermilk
  • Cheese, curds
  • Cream, ice cream
  • Ghee and butter fat
  • Kefir (milk drink)
  • Kumiss (fermented milk drink)
  • Sour cream
  • Yogourt

Other names for milk

  • Beta-lactoglobulin
  • Casein, rennet casein
  • Caseinate (ammonium caseinate, calcium caseinate, magnesium caseinate, potassium caseinate, and sodium caseinate)
  • Delactosed or demineralized whey
  • Dry milk, milk solids
  • Hydrolyzed casein and hydrolyzed milk protein
  • Lactalbumin and lactalbumin phosphate
  • Lactose
  • Lactoferrin, lactoglobulin
  • Milk derivative, fat and protein
  • Modified milk ingredients
  • Whey and whey protein concentrate

Food and products that contain or often contain milk

  • Artificial butter, butter flavour or butter oil
  • Dark chocolate
  • Baked goods (including some type of breads) and baking mixes
  • Battered and fried foods
  • Broth and bouillons
  • Caramel colouring or flavouring
  • Casseroles, frozen prepared foods
  • Cereals, cookies and crackers
  • Chocolate bars
  • Desserts, for example, custards, frozen yogourts, ice creams and puddings
  • Dips and salad dressings
  • Egg and fat substitutes
  • Fat replacers, for example, Opta and Simplesse
  • Glazes
  • Gravies and sauces
  • High-protein flour
  • Malt-drink mixes
  • Margarine
  • Pâtés and sausages
  • Pizza
  • Potatoes (instant, mashed and scalloped potatoes)
  • Seasonings
  • Soups and soup mixes, cream soups
  • Soy cheese

Other possible sources of milk

  • Canned tuna, for example, seasoned or mixed with other ingredients for flavour
  • Candy, fruit and granola bars, for example, those containing caramel or chocolate
  • Flavoured coffee, coffee whitener and non-dairy creamer
  • Some french fries (made from potato mixture or mashed potatoes)
  • Some hot dogs, deli and processed meats
  • Nougats
  • Seasoned chips, for example, sour cream and onion
  • Waxes on some fruit and vegetables

Non-food sources of milk

  • Cosmetics
  • Medications
  • Pet food

Ingredients that do not contain milk protein

(Although these ingredients have names similar to milk components, they are not actually related to milk, and are therefore safe for consumption by those with milk allergies.)

  • Calcium and sodium lactate
  • Calcium and sodium stearoyl lactylate
  • Cocoa butter
  • Cream of tartar
  • Oleoresin

Where can I get more information?

For more information about food allergies:

This information was developed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Health Canada, in consultation with Allergy/Asthma Information Association, Anaphylaxis Canada, Association québécoise des allergies alimentaires, Canadian Celiac Association and the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

CFIA P0707E-10
Catalogue No.: A104-84/2010E
ISBN: 978-1-100-14805-2