Is Your Product “Lactose Free”?

by Christine Hronec



shakehLactose is the natural sugar found in milk and milk products. Approximately 30 to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) [1]. This condition is caused by a deficiency of an enzyme called lactase. Prior to absorption into the bloodstream, milk sugars are broken down into simple sugars by this enzyme naturally produced in the small intestine. Conscious consumers should be aware that lactose is present in two large food categories—conventional dairy products, and as a food additive in dairy and non-dairy products [2]. During cheese manufacturing, a curdling process is initiated to separate the curd from the whey. After this process, lactose is found in the water based portion along with whey and casein. A process called ultra-filtration makes it possible to remove lactose as whey protein is concentrated to higher protein concentrations [3].

Interestingly enough, lactose intolerance is not considered an allergy by the Food and Drug Administration. There is no FDA definition for the terms “lactose free” or “lactose reduced.” A “lactose reduced” product may still contain low levels of this milk sugar that could trigger the symptoms associated with this condition (i.e.. A product being low in lactose does not protect a person with milk allergies as all of the lactose can essentially be removed from a product, yet milk based proteins will still be present even after the lactose is removed. The best guidance for reading product labels with regards to determining lactose content is best described by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission). This organization’s principal mission is to protect consumers against unfair or deceptive acts or practices in commerce including but not limited to advertising and marketing claims. These general guidelines are as follows in the case of lactose:

  • Lactose “Free” implies that a food has the least possible amount of lactose
  • “Low” Lactose means the food contains more lactose (Typically >0.5g or more per serving
  • “Reduced” Lactose means the food has 25% less lactose than the regular version of the food

When it comes to whey protein powders, there is always a slight chance that there are low levels of lactose in whey protein concentrate, however it is relatively safe to determine that whey protein isolates are free of lactose as they have been concentrated to the highest possible level of protein and were processed with the highest degree of filtration for effective lactose removal. For those with high sensitivities to lactose, it is best to stay away from protein blends that may include milk proteins and various types of whey that have not been filtered to the same degree as whey protein concentrate 80% and whey protein isolate 90%. For any additional questions regarding product labeling and FTC compliance, feel free to contact Muscle Gauge Nutrition’s private labeling experts for more information.


[1] http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm094550.htm
[2] • ^ a b c Hargrove, James L.; Berdanier, Carolyn D. (1993). Nutrition and gene expression. Boca Raton: CRC Press. ISBN 0-8493-6961-4.
[3] http://www.gpmie.com/gpmie/cmsdoc.nsf/webdoc/webb8djj54.

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