Non-Dairy vs. Dairy-Free, What is the Difference?

Non-Dairy vs. Dairy-Free, What is the Difference?

I love food labels.  There’s something about them that feels safe.  Like a warm hug gently reassuring me that what I put into my body is clean and healthy.  Imagine my surprise when I started deep diving into what some of these frequently used classifications actually mean according to the FDA.  

Insert shocked face. 

Seeing both of these on a package would have me reaching for more.  The sweet assurance of indulging in some ice cream without the belly bloat is almost more delicious than dessert itself.  


But buyer beware.  Here’s where it gets a little complicated.  Neither of these terms are actually defined by the FDA in their regulations for food labeling.  Therefore, neither are regulated or enforced.  

I can feel the gas bubbling up already. 

Sorry babe.  

I’m not in the mood tonight.  

Non-dairy was initially defined as having 0.5% or less milk by weight.  However, the FDA retracted that definition.  What that means is that historically non-dairy items contain dairy, primarily in the form of milk proteins and derivatives like caseinate.  

As for dairy-free,  a representative from the FDA was quoted as saying that products labeled as such should not contain dairy.  But again, no one is really checking in on it.  If a tree falls down and no one hears it, will it still give me the runs?  

The one safeguard we have against complete fabrication is the fact that the FDA does hold companies accountable for being truthful on their labels.  Even if the truth is somewhat open to interpretation.  

Ultimately the responsibility falls on the consumer to read the ingredients.  For those with more severe allergies and sensitivities, a good rule of thumb is to stick with dairy-free.  Read each individual ingredient.  And most importantly, look for trusted brands - like NOD Foods!  We promise that all of our products are truly dairy-free using only the highest quality of ingredients assuring that you feel good from the inside out.