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 However, product information and weblinks may be out of date.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.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Zeroing in on Lactose in Cheese

Once again someone has asked why I don't list Kraft Cracker Barrel cheeses on my list of lactose free cheeses. After all, Kraft states right on their packages that the cheeses have 0 grams of lactose per serving.

The reason is simple. I only list real milk cheeses that state they are lactose free.

Wait, isn't lactose free and 0 grams of lactose per serving the same thing?

Oddly enough, no.

The labeling laws allow packagers to round down on many items with less than half a gram of a substance. Fat free items can actually have up to half a gram of fat per serving, for example.

And items can have up to half a gram of lactose per serving and still round down to 0.

What happens, therefore, if an item has, say, 0.4 (four-tenths of a) gram of lactose? There are 28.375 grams in an ounce. 0.4/28.375 = 0.014 = 1.4%.

So a piece of cheese can have up to 1.4% lactose. This is not much lactose, true. And it's also a maximum. We don't know exactly how much lactose in is the cheese because Kraft doesn't say.

And that's the point. Kraft doesn't say. Their cheeses may have 1.4% lactose or it may be much lower. We don't know.

We can be pretty sure, however, that the cheeses are not lactose-free, because a quirk in the labeling laws says that items that are labeled "lactose-free" must really be lactose-free, not just low in lactose. I have to assume that if Cracker Barrel cheeses really were 0% lactose, Kraft would say so.

How much difference does this make? In practice, not much. This is an issue only for those who are lactose intolerant. Those with dairy allergies, or who are trying to keep vegan or kosher already know that cheese is a dairy item and to act accordingly.

And all aged cheeses are very low in lactose, some of them approaching true zero. I don't recommend that you avoid cheeses that state 0 grams of lactose per serving. I eat them myself. There are a number of others beside Kraft, BTW.

I've been having Cabot Cheese light 75% fat free cheese. The labeling on the Cabot website says that it's cheeses have 0 grams of lactose per serving. Yet, I list it on my Reduced-Lactose Milk Products page. Hypocrisy? I hope not. I remembering checking and being assured that Cabot considers its cheeses to be lactose-free.

It's just the principle. If I don't know the true lactose content of an item, I don't put that item up in my Product Clearinghouse. If I can confirm that a 0 grams of lactose cheese is truly lactose free, you'll see it there the next day.

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