Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Surprise! Lactaid milk contains lactose (if you buy the wrong Lactaid milk)

Here’s an example of the lies that Lactaid (McNeil Pharmaceuticals and Hood Dairy) is spreading:

“No matter what type of Lactaid Milk you buy, you are getting 100% farm-fresh, delicious milk with all the nutrients and none of the lactose.”

The reason why Lactaid’s statement is false is that Lactaid makes a milk that isn’t lactose-free. Their “70% lactose free” Lactaid milk contains lactose. You may not have seen this milk, since many supermarkets that carry the “100% lactose free” Lactaid milk don’t carry this badly-labeled alternative. But sometimes it turns up, looking like Lactaid milk, fooling customers.

No big deal, right? Some lactose is probably the same as no lactose. Except for people who are actually lactose-intolerant. Since those folks are the core demographic for Lactaid, I’m baffled as to why Lactaid would risk the health of their customers in order to sell a completely unnecessary product. Why does Lactaid want to make people sick? How does Lactaid benefit from people asking “Why did this Lactaid milk make me sick?”

Lactaid wants people to believe that their brand means “100% lactose free.” They want people to believe that so much that they write advertising copy saying so. They don’t even admit that they sell a Lactaid milk containing lactose on their website where they supposedly show all of their products. Lactaid lies about it on Facebook and on the telephone. And all for what? So that Lactaid can fool people into buying a product that will hurt them?

Lactaid’s 70% lactose free milk contains lactose, and not just trace amounts. This isn’t cross-contamination. This is market segmentation at the cost of people getting sick because they trusted Lactaid.

My local supermarket this morning said that they do not want to carry the 70% lactose free Lactaid milk, and their working theory is that Lactaid is deliberately shipping it to stores that haven’t ordered it in an attempt to move the product. If that’s true, then Lactaid is lying to stores as well as hurting consumers.

Milk straight out of the cow contains approximately 5% lactose. I haven’t yet heard from the FDA whether I can legally label regular milk as “95% lactose free.”

Update: I have had the following correspondence with Lactaid.

  • Hi Michael,
    Our Consumer Care Center informed me that you have concerns around our LACTAID® 70% Lactose Free Milk. This item was actually our original LACTAID® milk product. At the time it was launched, the technology was not as advanced as today, and it was possible to eliminate only 70% of the lactose found in regular milk. Lactose intolerance varies greatly among individuals and experts agree that most people with this condition can tolerate low levels of lactose in their diet. We’re now able to provide milk that is 100% lactose free. The product you contacted us about is clearly marked as 70% lactose free and the packaging looks much different from the 100% lactose free options.

    I apologize if your original inquiry was met with some confusion, and hope that your questions have been answered. Please contact us again if you would like any additional information.

    Maureen Conway
    Director, Nutritional Affairs
  • Reply from Michael

    The phrase "70% lactose free" makes no sense to anyone I've spoken to, since milk straight out of the cow is 95% lactose free.

    Lactaid's own reps on the phone and on facebook do not believe that the "70% lactose free" product exists. They have told me flat out that Lactaid does not distribute a milk containing lactose.

    Lactaid's own website avoids any mention of this "70% lactose free" product.

    The FDA clearly says that the phrase "lactose free" should not be used on a product that contains lactose. This product contains lactose. Why not use the phrase "reduced lactose"? And why market it under the Lactaid brand, teaching customers not to trust your brand?

    And the excuse about the product being clearly marked on the packaging is truly hard to swallow. People with food concerns are taught to read the ingredients list and nutritional info box, not every word everywhere on the package. Furthermore, your company has spent a fortune advertising your brand of milk as universally lactose free, and you splash your brand name all over this packaging. If your advertising is effective at all, customers concerned about lactose may justifiably see "Lactaid" at the top and stop reading. Your advertising supports that decision. Your information for health care providers says that all of your milks are lactose free, leading doctors to tell patients to choose Lactaid milk.

    I have personally been buying Lactaid milk for many years. I have never seen this "70% lactose free" milk in a store until this fall, because my local stores did not carry it. Until this fall, I had no idea that it existed. Until this fall, I believed that all Lactaid milks were 100% lactose free. (And you clearly want customers to continue to believe that lie.) When a friend or family member wanted to use milk as in ingredient in something I could eat, I told them to buy Lactaid milk. As it turns out, buying the wrong Lactaid milk would make me very ill.

    You are expecting every person who is trying to avoid lactose for themselves or for someone else to disbelieve your advertising, disbelieve your information for health care providers, ignore Lactaid's own employees, read every word on every grocery item they purchase, and figure out that "70% lactose free" does not actually mean lactose free. You expect every potential customer to be fully literate and to be fully numerate. And you are comfortable with the notion that people who trust your brand will be made ill if any of those expectations are not met. I am appalled.


Anonymous said...

Looked at the images of the boxes here, and it's pretty darn obvious that it's 70% lactose free. In fact, folks might even enjoy the option to have a different level of lactose. It's also pretty obvious that 70% lactose free means 70% of the normal amount. Obviously the whole carton of milk isn't lactose

Michael said...

If you're lactose intolerant and you're seeking out lactose because you "enjoy the option", you're an idiot. If you think that it's "pretty obvious" that 70% lactose free means 70% of the normal amount, rather than 30% of the normal amount, you need a refund from your math teachers. And if you defend a company that heavily advertises the false idea that any package saying "LACTAID" on it means it's 100% lactose-free while still selling a completely unnecessary product like this one, you're a troll.

But thanks for commenting. You make it obvious why product labeling rules exist, and why Lactaid should stop breaking those rules.

Michael said...

Lactaid now acknowledges this Lactaid-branded milk with lactose on a buried page on their website where they say that have discontinued it. If that's true, then we can stop worrying about it as soon as any remaining stock in the distribution chain is used up.

Robert B. said...

I know this is a very old post but I have good reason to believe that Lactaid may have discontinued the use of the "70% Lactose Free" cartons but they are still in fact using the process that only removes a potion of the lactose from their milk. There are very few times that I've been able to drink their product that I haven't had the side effects of drinking a regular glass of milk.

Anonymous said...

What do you use as an alternative that doesn't give you problems?

Anonymous said...

I drink Fairlife milk as an alternative. I am lactose intolerant and Fairlife gives me none of the side effects of a regular glass of milk.

Anonymous said...

'Lactose intolerant' means your body doesn't produce the enzyme lactase, necessary to break down lactose. Regardless of how much of the lactose is removed, these products work because lactase is added in.

mfc42 said...

Even Lactose free milk actually does have a very small amount of lactose in it
the government allows a very tiny amount of lactose to still qualify to be labeled
Lactose Free, just like de-caf coffee has a little caffeine in it or sugar free might have a tiny amount of natural sugar, so if you are severely lactose intolerant you may still feel sick from lactaid or others like it, also don't drink very much soy milk, soy is not good for anyone in more than little amounts it triggers the body into producing an estrogen like response, especially for men.. anyway I hope everyone feels good soon, be well. and if you disagree with me that's ok I'm just going on what my research has showed me, I have an extremely sensitive stomach and intestines
and done a ton of research as well as many gut related surgeries and been tested by somwe very good Docs..

Michael said...

The FDA does not technically define lactose-free, but they do say quite clearly that a product labeled "lactose-free" should have no lactose in it. The product label that seems more dubious is "0g lactose", since with rounding that could mean 0.49g lactose.

Deborah said...

There is more than one kind of intolerance that may give you a reaction to milk. Lactose intolerance is the most typical one, but you can also be intolerant to casein and other proteins in milk (if you are allergic to dairy, that is more all-encompassing than being lactose intolerant. As anonymous said, Lactaid processes out the lactose, but even if there are trace amounts of lactose, it contains contains lactase, which is the enzyme needed to process it, so it should be OK if you are lactose intolerant, but not if you are allergic to dairy.

Hannah Blessing said...

Fairlife removes the lactose from the milk, using advanced filtering techniques. Other companies add lactase, which is an enzyme that is supposed to digest the milk. Then they heat up the milk to inactivate the lactase. The enzyme makes your milk taste sweeter and the heating of the milk can make give it a cooked taste. Even though the lactose is still present, they are allowed to say their milk is lactose free if they add lactase. All of the sugar in milk is lactose. So if you get lactose free milk and it has sugar, and no sugar is added, it clearly still has lactose. Yet the lactase is supposed to have digested the thing that would make you sick, if you are lactose intolerant, before they inactivate the lactase. I don't know why they have to inactivate the lactase.

I had some lactose free milk and got sick, so I must be allergic. It's too bad!

Michael said...

Lactase breaks down lactose into glucose and galactose, which are also sugars. That's why lactose-free milk still contains sugar.