What is Dairy Free?


Alisa Fleming ~ Terminology can be a confusing thing when you are trying to really understand what is dairy free. For the purposes of using Go Dairy Free, I define dairy free as “free from milk-based ingredients.” This includes casein, whey, lactose, and even milk fat. It does not, however, include eggs. For more information, see this post on why eggs are not classified as dairy.

Products labeled as “dairy-free” or “vegan” should always be dairy-free by ingredients, but check the ingredient statement as errors do happen! Non-dairy is another story though. Non-dairy products may or may not be free of milk-based ingredients. To understand why, read the following post: Does my non-dairy food contain dairy?

For those with a very severe dairy allergy or intolerance, even trace amounts of milk protein or sugar may cause a reaction. In product manufacturing, “dairy-free” products may be cross-contaminated with trace amounts of dairy due to the use of shared equipment. Fortunately, for most dairy-free consumers, this is not an issue. However, for those with a severe allergy or intolerance, always consider cross-contamination potential. Contact the corresponding manufacturers directly to verify product safety before consuming.

For more help in understanding what is dairy free and what isn’t, enjoy the following resources:

What is dairy free?

About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.


  1. “Dairy Free” is possibly even a scarier word than non-dairy. The FDA does not have any definition or regulations to the term dairy-free. While the FDA does regulate the term non-dairy, those regulations are ludicrous and pointless. Where did you find your information that the term dairy free and vegan means there is no dairy? This is in fact false.

    • Hi Tasha, as mentioned, dairy-free and vegan products “should” always be made without dairy. There are no guarantees in life due to simple things, like human error. Keep in mind that there IS a truth in labeling law that encompasses making any types of false claims. If a company has labeled a product as dairy-free or vegan that actually contains a dairy ingredient, then you should report this to the company. If they do not respond, then you should report it to the FDA. I have had to contact a few companies over the years for falsely labeling a product “dairy-free” and each of them fixed the issue immediately. In each case, it was an oversight or a misunderstanding of ingredients (human error). As mentioned above, potential cross-contamination is a different issue, and should be assessed individually.

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