A: Alisa – Be sure to have your doctor clarify your son’s allergy. Is he allergic to milk specifically, or is he also allergic to eggs? In most cases, a dairy allergy refers to milk products only, though some doctors may still use prior terminology. Plus, it is not that uncommon to see a milk and egg allergy combination in kids.
Though frequently found in or near the dairy section of grocery stores, eggs are rarely considered a dairy food by modern definitions. In the past, the term “dairy” often encompassed both milk and eggs, but today they are recognized as separate foods. This is important since the nutritional make-up of eggs is very different from milk (including those allergenic proteins). Lumping the two together can cause confusion to both allergic and non-allergic individuals.
To clarify, both eggs and milk are animal byproducts, but when specifically asked, “Are eggs dairy?,” my answer is “no.” We define dairy more specifically as the byproduct of the mammary glands of mammals like cows or goats; or in other words, milk. Thus dairy would include any milk or milk-based product (cheese, cream, butter, etc.).
Who decided on this definition? Well, of course there is Wikipedia with a nice clear explanation. But, I went a bit further and looked to the big guys for clarification, the National Dairy Council. The NDC was established back in 1915, with the mission of educating the public on “milk and milk products.” Just like the bulk of U.S. dairy farmers, the National Dairy Council’s work revolves around milk, not eggs.
Aside from those who follow a vegan diet or who have an egg allergy or intolerance, eggs are suitable for dairy-free dieters. Nonetheless, to accommodate those who follow a vegan diet, or who have multiple food allergies, the recipes in Go Dairy Free have also been tested without eggs, and we post recipes on this website noting if they are also egg-free and/or vegan whenever possible. All of our recipes are milk-free, but look for either of those labels (and of course, check the recipe!) if you are also avoiding eggs.
For more dairy-free Q&A topics, see our Ask Alisa Page.