graohic of a milk jugCow's milk allergy is caused by a reaction to a number of proteins in cows' milk and people can react to whole milk or to casein or whey (casein is the curd that forms when milk sours and whey is the watery part that is left when the curd is removed).

People can be allergic to either whey or casein (or both) and can react to very small amounts of these. Heat treatment, such as pasteurisation, changes whey so people who are sensitive to whey might not react to pasteurised milk. But heat treatment doesn't affect casein so someone who is allergic to casein will probably react to all types of milk and milk products.


Check labels carefully for the following ingredients:

  • milk
  • whey
  • dried milk solids
  • casein
  • lactalbumin
  • sodium caseinate
  • potassium caseinate
  • calcium caseinate
  • butter
  • cheese
  • margarine and
  • curds.

Bear in mind that goats milk and sheep’s milk are unsuitable alternatives to cow’s milk as they share similar proteins with cow’s milk and could result in cross-reactivity.

Do not eat the following foods:

  • Milk
  • Cream
  • Yogurt
  • Lactaid Acidophilus milk
  • Ice cream and ice milk
  • Sherbet made with milk or frozen yogurt
  • Cream sauces and soups, white sauces
  • Butter or margarine (except parve)
  • Cheese
  • Baked goods made with milk, including breads
  • Mashed potatoes and other vegetables prepared with milk, cheese, butter or cream
  • Instant cocoa, breakfast mixes and cereals containing dried milk

Eat instead

Milk is rich in protein, calcium and vitamins A and B, so these are the nutrients you need to replace in a dairy free diet.

  • Soya is rich in protein while potatoes, vegetable oil and fish (including cod liver oil and fish oils) are rich in vitamin A.
  • Calcium can be found in sardines, watercress, figs, rhubarb, almonds and other nuts.
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals.
  • Rice milk is a good alternative for drinking and also if required over a breakfast cereal. It can also be used in baking or as a thickening agent.
  • Cooking substitutes for cow’s milk include water, broth or juice. Health professionals recommend special casein hydrated formulae (e.g. Nutramigen or Pregestimi) which have been made from cow’s milk that has been treated to change the proteins.