According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NIH), around 65 percent of the human population has a difficulty digesting lactose products after infancy. While certain people with lactose intolerance are unable to consume any dairy products containing lactose, others can consume certain products such as yogurt or cheese with no problem. Fortunately, FDA labels are clearly labelled to inform consumers about lactose-containing products, to help shoppers make the wisest food choices.
However, there are many rules and regulations to follow when labelling dairy or lactose-containing products, and Lactose Intolerance Awareness Month is the perfect time to educate yourself to ensure that you’re following all the rules.
Lactose-Free FDA Labels
Since lactose intolerance is not an actual allergy (like a milk, egg, or wheat allergy), there is no FDA definition for lactose-free. However, manufacturers must always be truthful with their ingredients and if a product contains lactose, they must say so on the product label. According to the FDA, lactose-free products mustn’t contain any lactose at all, and reduced lactose products must be labelled as reduced lactose and not lactose-free.
However, even when lactose is removed from a product, the milk protein will still be present. If a product contains ingredients such as milk, evaporated milk, cream, condensed milk, margarine, whey, cheese, curds, and milk solids, lactose is likely still present in the product.
Lactose-Free Is Not Dairy-Free
Since lactose-free and dairy-free are not the same thing (since lactose intolerance is not the same as a dairy allergy), many lactose-free products contain dairy, even if they do not contain lactose. Unless a product is labelled as dairy-free, it can still contain milk protein, under FDA guidelines. However, many dairy-free products still contain casein, which is a milk derivative.
To make FDA labels easier to read for highly sensitive consumers or individuals following dairy-free or vegan diets, it is important to clearly label product labels and to list all ingredients used, even if only a small amount of dairy, lactose, or casein are present in the product.
What to Include on FDA Labels
Now that we know the differences between lactose-free, dairy-free, and completely milk-free, we can discuss the labelling guidelines for lactose-free products. Manufacturers must include the following when labelling lactose-free products:
- A list of all ingredients used, in descending order, in order of percentage and total weight. For example, the chief ingredient should be listed at the top of the ingredient list.
- All food additives must also be listed, including food coloring, preservatives, and emulsifiers.
- If present in the product, any of the 14 common food allergens must be listed. For example, several common food allergens are milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, walnuts, and almonds. Common food allergens must be bolded or highlighted in a way that they stand out above the other ingredients.
Labelling lactose-free products doesn’t have to be a hassle, and SheetLabels.com can make the process as easy as possible. View our high-quality dairy labels, cheese labels, food product labels, or allergy labels, and contact us today to learn more. Lactose Intolerance Awareness Month is the perfect time to update your product labels to ensure that they meet FDA standards and customer satisfaction.