Milk Protein May Still be Present in “Dairy-Free” Processed Foods


Milk Protein PowderAlisa Fleming ~ Are processed foods safe for people with severe food allergies? According to a new piece of research, the answer could be no.

The accuracy of gluten testing for food products has received quite a bit of media attention in the past year, but the importance of testing for milk should not be swept under the rug. Many people, and particularly children, have a severe or life-threatening allergy to milk protein. In fact, milk is a leading allergen, affecting 2 to 5 percent of all tikes under the age of three.

To help safeguard against unexpected allergic reactions, food manufacturers use tests, such as the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) to detect residues of allergens like milk on both the machines used for the product production, and on the final food product. If milk is detected, companies have the option (it isn’t required by law) to put a disclaimer on the product, such as “may contain milk,” to let people know that the product might not be safe for those with a severe milk allergy …

However, a study presented at the243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society's (ACS) in San Diego cast doubt on the efficacy of the ELISA test. Led by Joseph L. Baumert, Ph.D. and Steve Taylor, PhD from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the research team reported that the ELISA was not able to detect some of the leftover milk protein residue due to the product processing.

The researchers found that food processing which involves heat diminishes the accuracy of the ELISA test. The definition of heat processing is broad in this case, and includes boiling, baking, frying, distilling, and UHT (ultra high temperatures). It is believed that heat causes the milk proteins to “stick together,” making it difficult for the ELISA to detect. However, this clumping action does not necessarily destroy the protein's ability to trigger an allergic reaction. Baumert indicated that the milk protein clumps would most likely maintain their potency when ingested.

Baumert and his team are expected to make recommendations to improve the ELISA test. The ELISA study was funded by grants from the United States Department of Agriculture AFRI Competitive Grant and the Food Allergy Research & Resource Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. All work presented at a conference is considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Sources: DailyRX and Science Daily


Article and Photo by Alisa Fleming, founder of and author of Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. Alisa is also a freelance writer for several publications, with an emphasis on creating recipes for various types of special diets.

Are these chips truly dairy-free?

About Author

Alisa is the founder of, 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.

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