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Ask Dr. Gourmet

Does evaporated milk contain lactose?

I am lactose intolerant, and I'm usually careful to read the label of any food or drink item that I think might contain lactose. Salt-water taffy didn't strike me as something that I should be concerned about until after the fact. I read the ingredients on the box, and the taffy contained evaporated milk. Is evaporated milk lactose free?

Dr. Gourmet Says...

Taffy candies individually wrapped in waxed paper

Evaporated milk does contain lactose.

Keep in mind that the frequency and severity of the symptoms for those who are lactose intolerant seem to be dose-related. For most people, the larger the amount of lactose consumed, the greater the risk of symptoms. Physicians have an expression that they use: "dose dependent." This means that foks will have side effects to a certain medication or substance with only a certain amount. The side effects are "dependent" on the "dose."

For those who are very intolerant, even the lactose contained in some pills is enough to cause symptoms. This is true for many people who have trouble with eating foods that contain lactose. Some can have 1/4 cup of milk on their cereal and not have problems, but will experience symptoms if they drink a full glass of milk. Other people will have problems with as little as two tablespoons.

It may be that there's so little lactose in the salt water taffy that you might be able to tolerate a small amount of taffy.

Timothy S. Harlan, MD, FACP, CCMS
Dr. Gourmet