Because of spam, I personally moderate all comments left on my blog. However, because of health issues, I will not be able to do so in the future.

If you have a personal question about LI or any related topic you can send me an email at I will try to respond.

Otherwise, this blog is now a legacy site, meaning that I am not updating it any longer. The basic information about LI is still sound. However, product information and weblinks may be out of date.

In addition, my old website, Planet Lactose, has been taken down because of the age of the information. Unfortunately, that means links to the site on this blog will no longer work.

For quick offline reference, you can purchase Planet Lactose: The Best of the Blog as an ebook on or Almost 100,000 words on LI, allergies, milk products, milk-free products, and the genetics of intolerance, along with large helpings of the weirdness that is the Net.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Shea Butter and Other Nondairy Foolers

I was idly flipping through the coupon section of Sunday's paper, when my eye was caught by an advertisement for new Jergens Shea Butter.

Wait. Shea butter?

Unless you are fanatically into obscure and/or faddish beauty products you've never heard of Shea butter. Wikipedia defines it as "a slightly greenish natural fat extracted from fruit of the Shea tree by crushing and boiling. Shea butter is edible. It is consumed in traditional cuisine and used in the chocolate industry as a substitute for cocoa butter."

Jergens is not the only company suddenly promoting shea butter. Avon has one, and Nasabb, and Flori Roberts, and a million others. Codina actually owns the site. But thanks to Keri, which helpfully lists shea butter in the ingredients as "butyrospermum parkii."

It's not a dairy product, therefore, but a type of fruit butter. There are dozens of types of fruit butters, from mixtures called, you guessed it, fruit butters to apple butter, passion fruit butter, and apricot pumpkin butter.

Why butter? Any product that forms a soft, spreadable paste is commonly and historically referred to as a "butter". Fruit butters have been around forever, but most of us are far more familiar with peanut butter and other types of nut butters. Cocoa butter, a vegetable fat made from cocoa beans, is another familiar use, though few of us have probably seen the original except as an ingredient on chocolate bars.

The Oxford English Dictionary even contains an entry for rock butter, "a mineral composed of alum combined with iron, which exudes as a soft butter-like paste from certain aluminiferous rocks."

This extended metaphoric use of butter goes back to a 1440 cite of "botyr of almondes."

Of course, none of these "butters" have any dairy in them. That doesn't keep people from getting confused even so.

A long, long time ago, when I first started my web site, I put up a page called The Better Look Twice List of Supermarket Products That Appear To Contain Milk -- But Don't!. This page includes the butter bean, the butter clam, buttercup squash, butterhead lettuce, apple butter, peanut butter, and even Shea butter! I was way ahead of my time. Shea butter took years to become the latest fad moisturizer and emollient.

No matter how lactose intolerant you are, though, don't think it contains any dairy. But, please, don't eat the Jergens.

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