Thanks to the processed foods industry, dairy in various forms lingers within many unexpected foods on our grocery store shelves. Even for the most diligent label readers the “secret code” words used on ingredient lists are enough to make your head spin. Luckily, I have not just one, but FOUR pieces of great news for those committed to a healthier, dairy-free lifestyle. And the drum roll please….
First, is the labeling law. The law applies to all foods manufactured on or after January 1, 2006, which are intended for sale within the United States. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), otherwise known as the “plain language” labeling law, requires that the 8 top allergens (including dairy) be declared on food labels using easily recognizable names. There will also be a disclaimer below the ingredient list that states which, if any, of these top allergens are contained in the product. The government has made it clear that even a 7 year old should be able to read and understand the new food labels. The European Union guided the US into this step by initiating heavier labeling laws, hopefully other nations will follow suit with their own strict legislation on ingredient and allergen listings.
Second, it pretty much stands as a general rule that processed foods with ingredients that you can’t understand, are really not good for you anyway. This would be a hard one to argue. Luckily, a diet limited in processed foods is not only a core part of a dairy free diet, it is also a great step towards optimum health.
Third, we have a handy Dairy Ingredient List to reference. As I have learned over the years, relying on FALCPA exclusively is not the best idea, as errors, discrepancies, and confusion can occur. Reading ingredient labels is still always recommended, and where severe allergies are a concern, due diligence is required by the consumer to ensure ingredients ant processes are “safe.”
Fourth, although not flawless, the Jewish community uses a system of product markings to indicate whether a food is kosher. Head to our “Understanding Kosher Certification” page for more details.