Risks of Milk Contamination in Milk-Alternative Frozen Dessert for Individuals with Allergies to Milk Protein

January 19, 2021

Paustenbach and Asssociates

We are pleased to announce that our toxicologist, Melinda Donnell, recently published an article titled Risk characterisation of milk protein contamination in milk-alternative ice cream products sold as frozen desserts in the United States in the journal Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A. The article can be found here.  

Food allergies are a significant public health concern, with cow’s milk protein recognized as one of the most common food allergies in the United States. Milk is one of the most common foods responsible for fatal or near-fatal food-induced anaphylactic reactions globally. Undeclared allergens in foods are a leading cause of food recalls requested or reported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), with undeclared milk protein being the leading cause of consumer adverse reactions to recalled foods.

Milk-alternative ice cream products sold as frozen dessert in the U.S. often contain labels such as “non-dairy”, “dairy-free”, and or “vegan” (Yang et al., 2021). The recently published study aimed to characterize the potential risk for individuals with an allergy to cow’s milk protein who consume these products. The results of the study indicated that of the 32 unique milk-alternative ice cream products from 16 different brands that were labeled as “non-dairy”, “dairy-free”, and/or “vegan”, three contained detectable milk proteins in quantities that exceeded some of the published thresholds necessary to elicit an allergic reaction in a milk-sensitized individual after consuming one serving of the product (Yang et al., 2021). Of those three, only one product provided an advisory statement that the product was made in a facility that processed milk (Yang et al., 2021).

There are multiple causes for potential cross-contact of allergens, including improper use of product rework, carryover of allergens on shared equipment due to incomplete or improper cleaning, and contamination of non-allergic foods with airborne dust and aerosols created during production of allergenic foods. In addition, food warning labels and advisory statements are a critical component in preventing an allergic response in highly sensitive individuals. More research is needed to determine how contamination of allergens occurs in foods, and to better define thresholds that elicit allergic reactions for effective risk-based decision making on food manufacturing and labeling. 

How Can Paustenbach and Associates Help?

Paustenbach and Associates scientists have over 40 years of experience in conducting risk assessments, evaluating the risks of allergens in foods, and assisting with proper labeling of food products. Our firm is dedicated to understanding the objective human health risks of consumable items, and how businesses can successfully and sustainably employ risk reduction measures in the manufacturing and distribution of their products. Please contact us for more information regarding our capabilities.


Yang, L., Brewster, R. K., Donnell, M. T., & Hirani, R. N. (2021). Risk characterisation of milk protein contamination in milk-alternative ice cream products sold as frozen desserts in the United States. Food additives & contaminants. Part A, Chemistry, analysis, control, exposure & risk assessment, 1–13. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/19440049.2021.1989496