Foods Which Contain Casein Protein

Casein and whey are the proteins in milk. Children often suffer milk allergies. In fact, some 2.5 percent of kids younger than 3 are allergic to milk, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FANN). Adults sometimes suffer allergies to milk protein as well. Milk ingredients are easier to find in foods these days thanks to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, which requires labels to more clearly identify the source of ingredients that are derived from eight common allergens, including milk. This system is not always foolproof, however, so learning to carefully scan labels is still important.

Dairy Foods

Dairy foods have the protein casein in them. These include milk, cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt. Casein intolerance or allergy is much rarer than lactose intolerance, according to Lactose is the sugar in milk.

Processed Foods

Processed foods often contain casein. It will not always be labeled as such. Look out for milk solids, lactose, sodium lactylate, and any other ingredient that starts with “lact.” Also seek the words: galactose, protein, caramel coloring, natural flavors, Recaladent, tagatose, Naturlose, milk, yogurt, cheese and butter, according to “Eating Without Casein A Practical Primer for People with Allergies to Milk,” by Beth Kevles. The vinegar flavoring in potato chips contains casein as well. There’s also the risk of cross-contamination when products are made on equipment that has been used for another product that contained a milk ingredient.


Casein is added to lunch meat, sausages and hot dogs, according to FAAN. It’s also found in many brands of canned tuna, chicken broth or bouillon and “fresh” poultry, which can be infused with a solution to keep it fresher, warns Kevles. Even if the label on fresh poultry says “all natural,” it may have up to 5 percent other additives, according to the California Poultry Federation. Other meat will be labeled “100 percent natural” but in fine print the label will admit that there is “up to 15 percent natural chicken broth.”

Fast Food and Baked Goods

Fast food often contains casein–and in seemingly unlikely places. For example, McDonald’s French fries contain milk-derived ingredients, according to Kevles. The fries contain gluten as well. The buns–and all baked goods whether from a fast-food restaurant or not for that matter–usually contain casein.

“Non-Dairy” Foods

Foods that say “non-dairy” or appear to be non dairy actually can contain casein, according to FAAN. This includes non-dairy whipped toppings. It also includes soy cheese, which is marketed as an alternative to dairy cheese, according to Mike Adams, editor of Also watch out for artificial butter flavor and margarine.

About this Author

Linda Tarr Kent is a reporter and editor with 20 years experience at Gannett Company, Inc., The McClatchy Company, Sound Publishing, Inc., Mach Publishing, MomFit The Movement and other companies. Her area of expertise is health and fitness. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Washington State University.