Two words: soy lecithin. This ingredient is everywhere in today's processed food-laden society, and it is also the reason why many food companies can get away with saying that their products are "dairy-free."
What a lot of people don't know is that soy lecithin can be made from dairy. This ingredient is often not listed as an allergen on products, yet it may still bother those of you who are lactose-intolerant, allergic to dairy, or vegan.
Here are a few of the foods that I have found on the market that may claim to be dairy-free, but in fact most likely produce the same negative body responses that can occur from consuming dairy.
Jolly Rancher Fruit Chews
Jolly Rancher Fruit Chews list soy lecithin as an ingredient, and yet, on the list of allergens, dairy is not one of them. They do state that soy lecithin is an "emulsifier, to prevent ingredients from separating," which is the purpose of this ingredient in all foods, explaining their dairy-like consistency.
However, be careful before you eat these if you are a dairy sensitive individual because the creamy consistency isn't completely without dairy-related side effects. A lot of candies can have unknown ingredients, which can be difficult for anyone with eating restrictions.
When you look at a Pop-Tart, you may immediately think it contains dairy because it's an iced pastry. However, if you read the nutrition label, it contains both wheat and soy.
Soy lecithin makes the Pop-Tart's icing creamy and solid, and I have personally experienced negative side effects after eating one. Avoid eating this product if you are dairy-free, as it often has traces (if not more) of soy lecithin.
Some Kind granola bars also have soy lecithin, especially in their products that have dark chocolate as a coating. Most of them are completely safe for vegans and dairy-free consumers, but their Dark Chocolate Almond and Coconut bar contains soy lecithin and only lists soy, coconut, and almonds as allergens.
Beware of soy lecithin in certain Kind granola bars because it most likely contains traces of dairy in the creamy chocolate topping. Dairy-free consumers unfortunately may not be able to safely enjoy these granola treats.
Ben and Jerry's "Dairy-Free Ice Cream"
This break through for dairy-free consumers turned into a nightmare when I realized that there must have still been some traces of dairy in this product due to my adverse reaction each time I ate it.
I read the ingredients only to discover that soy lecithin was in fact the ingredient that kept the ice cream so creamy. Instead of this product, try Lactaid ice cream if you are not a vegan to avoid soy lecithin all together.
Some kinds of dark chocolate on the market do not have actual butter, cream, or milk, but instead have soy lecithin as an ingredient. Soy lecithin is used here to maintain a creamy consistency, similar to its purpose in Kind bars.
Even the FDA recognizes this issue of incorrect labeling with chocolates. The most disturbing fact is that the FDA discovered that more than 15% of dark chocolates labeled dairy-free and lactose free and nearly 25% of vegan dark chocolate products contained traces of milk.
After becoming aware of this situation, dairy-free consumers must be aware of products that include soy lecithin because these are more likely to have traces of dairy.
Be wary when purchasing and eating foods with this rather mysterious ingredient, and read the nutrition label before you dive in. If you decide to avoid soy lecithin all together like I do, there are still many treats, even chocolate, that contain safer, entirely dairy-free alternatives.