A California mother sent out a warning to “read everything” after her dairy-allergic daughter died of a severe allergic response. Denise Saldate, age 11, suffered a fast-moving anaphylactic reaction to milk protein in her new prescription toothpaste. This unexpected tragedy has prompted quite a few questions and concerns about the safety of toothpaste for milk allergies. So I’m responding with helpful information on this everyday personal care product.
Milk in Toothpaste? Here’s What You Need to Know
Personal care products are a tricky area since they don’t always carry allergen labels, and many people don’t think to look at those types of labels for food-based ingredients. But all is not lost. The following FAQs will help you safely discover your holy grail of dairy-free toothpaste.
Is Toothpaste Considered a Food?
Although we use it in our mouths, and some inevitably gets swallowed, toothpaste is regulated as a “cosmetic” by the FDA. It’s categorized with lotions, make-up, shampoos, and other personal care products. Toothpastes that are intended to prevent or treat disease, like fluoride toothpastes, also fall under the “drug” labeling laws. In the case of toothpaste, the only notable difference between cosmetic and drug labeling is that any active ingredients must be listed first on drug labels.
Can I Trust the Toothpaste Label?
For both cosmetics and drugs sold in the U.S., all ingredients must be printed conspicuously on the package. They should be listed in descending order and written in English with the proper names based on regulations.
But unlike most food, the ingredients don’t need to be written in “plain English,” and allergens do not need to be called out or identified. This means that those ingredient lists can be more difficult to decipher, and ingredients like “natural flavors” could house an allergen.
Nonetheless, the label should be current and accurate to aid in further research as needed.
What Milk-Based Ingredients can Toothpaste Contain?
Technically, just about any milk-based ingredient could be found in toothpaste. Small amounts of lactose, Tagatose (sweetener), or other dairy-derived ingredients could be added for flavor or consistency. But the most common offender is a trademarked active ingredient called Recaldent. Recaldent is derived from milk protein, and is used in tooth products to help strengthen the enamel. It’s unfortunately the ingredient that Denise consumed.
Tooth Care Products that Contain Recaldent (Dairy)
There might be others, but these are the products identified by the Recaldent company.
- MI Paste ONE
- GC Tooth Mousse
- GC MI Varnish
- Trident Xtra Care*
- GC Fuji VII EP Capsule
- Recaldent Gum (Japan)
*This is actually chewing gum. Dairy can also be found in some strengthening and whitening chewing gums. Chewing gum does fall under the FALCPA, so it should have clear ingredients and food allergen identification.
How Do I Find Dairy-Free Toothpaste?
Read the ingredients every time your purchase toothpaste. Since the labeling regulations on non-food items are less stringent, there is a good chance that ingredients and ingredient suppliers can change without notice.
You can consult our Dairy Ingredient List to help identify milk ingredients on toothpaste. If you are still uncertain about any of the ingredients, you can contact the manufacturer. The manufacturer’s contact information has to be printed on the package.
What Toothpastes Are Dairy-Free?
Most toothpastes are dairy-free. Due to ever-changing labels, and even different ingredients in different regions, it’s difficult to give you a complete list. But many brands now shun animal-derived ingredients, including dairy. At last check, the following brands of toothpaste do not contain any dairy ingredients:
- Arm & Hammer
- Close Up
- Desert Essence
- Dr. Bronner’s
- Kiss My Face
- Nature’s Gate
- Tom’s of Maine
And I received the following information on Sensodyne toothpaste (from the manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare):
Following a review of the product formulations and supplier documentation, we can confirm that the majority of Sensodyne® toothpastes do not contain dairy products. However, the presence of trace levels of these materials in the final product as a result of third party manufacturing processes cannot be excluded. Sensodyne Extra Fresh* contains a very small quantity of butter distillate in the flavour ingredient.
The above information is subject to change at any time. This post is for informational purposes only. Always read the label before purchase and use to ensure that a product is safe for you! If you note dairy in a toothpaste, or you find a great dairy-free option, please kindly leave a comment below to share your experience.
Share the Awareness
Our hearts go out to Monique Altamirano, Denise’s mother, and to other families who have lost a loved one to a milk allergy. In their honor, we’ll continue to promote respect for the Rodney Dangerfield of food allergies.