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Ask The Allergy Chef: Milk Allergy vs Dairy Allergy

Ask The Allergy Chef: Difference Between Milk Allergy and Dairy Allergy?

    Is there a real difference between milk allergy and dairy allergy? Or are they more or less the same?

    Great question! This is really where semantics come into play. Let’s look at all the definitions, AND common interpretations by society.

    Milk: A liquid rich in nutrients produced by female mammals to feed their young.
    Society: Milk from a cow.
    Reality: Milk comes from all mammals, and commercially you can find milk from: cows, camels, buffalo, sheep, and goats.

    Dairy: A term that encompasses a range of products made from any kind of milk.
    Society: Stuff that comes from cows, but they often forget butter is one of them. Sometimes they lump egg into this as well (probably from the old food pyramids they saw).
    Reality: When you go to the grocery store, milk is sold in the dairy section. The dairy section contains milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, and anything else that comes from the milk of any animal. There’s not a cow’s dairy aisle and a sheep’s dairy aisle, and so on. Just one big section. Milk will also be used in a range of products in packaged products.

    This is why you may see the term CMPA, or cow’s milk protein allergy. It’s a specific way to say allergic to cow’s milk (and anything made from cow’s milk).

    Some people are allergic to cow’s milk, but not other types. No two people are the same. Those who cannot have casein are more likely to be allergic to all forms of mammal milk.

    So to answer your question, society will tell you they’re the same thing. By definition however, they’re not. Even within the free-from community, there isn’t a consistent set of language that’s quick and easy to use. You can say “I’m allergic to milk from all mammals” or “I have CMPA” or “I’m allergic to cow’s milk, but not sheep’s milk”, and so on. However, when you say you’re “allergic to dairy” you’re implying that you’re allergic to everything found in the dairy aisle, from every single mammal.

    Hope this helps!
    ~The Allergy Chef

    Milk Allergy Resources

    Hidden Sources of Milk and Dairy Dairy Free and Milk Free Food Swaps
    Vegan Foods Aren't Always Dairy Free How to Start a Dairy Free Diet
    Dairy Free Smoothies Two Ways

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