By Allergen Bureau

Levels of milk in non-dairy ice cream products may be dangerous

Milk is one of the leading causes of fatal or near-fatal food-induced anaphylactic reactions globally. Because of this, most countries require milk to be declared on a food label when present as an ingredient, yet undeclared milk is the most frequently cited allergen behind food recalls. A US-based research team have sought to characterise the potential risk for allergic individuals consuming milk-alternative ice cream products that may unintentionally contain milk.

The team looked at 16 different brands of milk-alternative frozen dessert products sold in the US, to evaluate the prevalence of milk protein contamination in those labelled as non-dairy, dairy-free, and/or vegan. Thirty-two unique products were tested for the presence of milk proteins using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay method.

Milk protein was detected in three of the tested products and the label of one of these had a PAL indicating the product was made in a facility that also processed milk.

The minimum amount of milk protein that will cause an allergic reaction in someone with milk allergy is not yet formally agreed upon, but some risk assessment thresholds are available for guidance purposes. The amount of milk protein in one serving of each of the three frozen desserts exceeded some of the published thresholds, suggesting that if a milk-allergic person consumed a whole serving, they would be at risk of an allergic reaction.

Reference: Yang et al. 2021. Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A. DOI: 10.1080/19440049.2021.1989496