The research showed that labelling for people with a milk sensitivity has improved in recent years and consumers find specific claims helpful, but the key information that is scrutinised is still the ingredients list and specialised allergen information/advice statements.
Products described as ‘lactose free’ were generally assumed to be suitable for people with lactose intolerance. However, there was considerable uncertainty about whether or not they were suitable for people with a milk allergy or intolerance.
People with lactose intolerance were uncertain whether products described as ‘dairy free’ or ‘milk free’ were suitable for them.
‘Dairy free’ was the most widely used and understood term. It was understood to refer to the absence of both milk and products derived from milk, such as butter, yoghurt and cheese, although some mistakenly thought that such products were also free from eggs.
There was significant confusion about the term ‘milk free’, as this was thought by some to mean the absence of alternative ‘milks’ made from plants, such as soya or rice, as well as animal milks, but others thought that it only referred to cows’ milk.
There was also confusion about whether ‘milk free’ products could contain butter, yoghurt and cheese or were just free from milk itself.
Consumers, health professionals and food businesses all agreed that there would need to be clear advice for consumers and health professionals to explain the meaning of any claims that might be governed by legislation.