Vegan/Casein Warning

Explanation | Planet Juice | Surf City | Burger King | McDonalds | Issues | History | Contact


Some people require a diet with absolutely no milk or milk proteins, whether for ethical or medical reasons.

Milk is mainly composed of Lactose (sugar), Whey (protein) and Casein (protein). People can have allergy or ethical problems with any of these.

Unfortunately, it's not that easy to determine whether what you're eating is safe or not. Thanks to the USDA and FDA, is legal (and sometimes required!) for companies to label products as "Non-Dairy" even if they contain milk product, specifically "casein/caseinates" - which are considered chemical additives.

San Francisco Smoothie Companies

For those of you in San Francisco, there are two companies that claim that their smoothies are "Dairy Free" or "non-Dairy" even though they contain the milk protein casein.

Planet Juice ™
1467 Haight St, other locations
415 864-2890
Haight St location now closed! :)
Surf City
865 Market St, 101 Clay St, other locations..
415 543-1435, 415 398-8888, ..

I had a shocking experience with Planet Juice over the contents of this page. It's a worthwhile read if you want to see the kind of threats and nonsense a crappy company will do in order to avoid criticism.

Burger King

2005/02/01: Burger King now has a "dietary needs and allergens" section (which is great) but they list their sandwiches that don't include cheese as not having Milk allergens, even though the bun contains "calcium caseinate" (from their ingredients page). I finally got a chance to call them but I noticed that their ingredients page has changed and calcium caseinate has been removed! (Even though the page claims it's last update was 12/04). Does anyone have an old ingredient listing that can verify this for me so I can find out if they changed it or not?


McDonald's buns contain "sodium stearoyl lactylate" which is probably not milk derived, so the buns are probably milk-safe. I called them and they're researching it for me. They were exceedingly helpful.

That doesn't change the fact that in early 2006 it was revealed that they had lied about not having milk and weight ingredients in their fries. Screw you, McDonalds.


This is a putting consumers at risk in two significant ways:
  1. Ethical Issue: Many people choose a diet free of animal products
  2. Health Issue: Common milk issues are due to a lactose intolerance, but many people also suffer from a Casein allergy, which can be a life threatening issue. Furthermore, there are some studies that link casein and gluten (milk and wheat proteins) to some people's battles with autism

More information:


2003/05/21: Talked to:
John Macy of the CDFA

He'll look into it and see if it's under their jurisdiction

I also called the FDA.  It's their jurisdiction if the company
does interstate commerce (I think this only covers Surf City):
  FDA Complaint Coordinator:
  Charla Stevens 510-337-6741

Otherwise I could try the local County Health Dep't / SF Dep't Of Health

2003/09/12: I'm informed by Andy Dwyer that:

You might be interested to know that the FDA's commissioner, Mark
McClellan, was interviewed by Ira Flatow on NPR's Talk of the
Nation/Science Friday last week.  A caller grilled him about (in this
case, pre-packaged) products being allowed to carry a non-dairy label even
if they contain casein.  He dodged it by claiming that that particular
standard is in the jurisdiction of the USDA.

You can find audio of the program at: RealAudio, Windows Media

2006/01/01: FDA
Allergen Labeling Act goes into effect, though only for packaged foods, not restaurants.

2006/02/20: Evidently the dairy inspectors require
that milk-similar items without milk (but with casein!) are labelled
as non-dairy to avoid confusing the consumer!  They're worried about
the consumer who is hoping to get milk product and doesn't - and
those of us with allergies are screwed.


To contact me go to my contact page

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