Oreos. America's favorite cookie. And those suffering from milk allergies or sensitivities want to know, "Are Oreos safe for us?" Because rumor has it in milk allergy circles that, "YES, you can have Oreos!". It's probably some of the most encouraging news a milk allergy mom first learns when her child is diagnosed. And when non-allergy folks hear that our dairy anaphylactic son eats Oreos, they are often quite perplexed.
Early in our allergy diagnosis, I didn't want to take people's word for it, though. I had to do a little digging and research and phone-calling of my own to feel ok about giving my milk allergy son an Oreo. A CHOCOLATE Oreo. It just didn't sound safe.
Before we dive into all the findings, let me preface by saying this post has been updated several times through the years. And the info isn't necessarily all chronological. But I think it's all relevant to the discussion. The Oreo ingredient and processing concerns have gone from "whey as an ingredient" to "what is the chocolate" to "UD Kosher label" concerns.
I hope this information helps you, and be sure to read the helpful comments, too. Some milk allergic people report not having success with Oreos so use your best judgement, and feel free to do your own research. We would love to know if you find more information that we can add here!
WHAT DOES THE NEW U D SYMBOL MEAN?
Oreos now have the U D symbol on the front of the package that means they are Kosher but they may....
1. Contain milk or
2. Be processed in a plant with milk
You can read more about Kosher labeling at Kids with Food Allergies.
One of our readers added:
"Actually UD simply means the equipment has been approved and blessed for kosher foods. When doing early research I found that Nabisco uses shared equipment, however they do a full allergy clean up between products. So while the dairy is gone all foods processed on the equipment still gets the kosher labeling."
This UD warning is on many of the Nabisco items we safely eat: Honey Maid, Ritz, Nutter Butter, and Oreo.
WHAT IS THE "CHOCOLATE" INGREDIENT IN OREOS?
Here is the official ingredient list:
Ingredients: SUGAR, ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE [VITAMIN B1], RIBOFLAVIN [VITAMIN B2], FOLIC ACID), HIGH OLEIC CANOLA OIL AND/OR PALM OIL AND/OR CANOLA OIL, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, BAKING SODA, CORNSTARCH, SALT, SOY LECITHIN (EMULSIFIER), VANILLIN-AN ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, CHOCOLATE.
That first "cocoa processed with alkali" is a milk-free chocolate. But I do understand the concern on that last mention of "chocolate". I'm not sure what it is, either.
I remember questioning this from the get-go and calling the company after another milk allergy mom told me Oreos were milk-free. I can't remember exactly what the company told me at that time but it must have been assuring enough for us to try them. And we did....with success. My son loves Oreos, and has successfully eaten them for many years.
But now that some moms have brought it up, I've been on a renewed mission to get more scoop on this. First, I called Nabisco and they told me in a round-about way that the cookies do not contain milk. I asked about the last ingredient, chocolate, and they said that if it was made from milk, it would contain the word "milk"....such as "chocolate derived from milk" or "milk" put in parentheses. They did say that if I had further concerns, I should call the Food Allergy and Anaplylaxis Network.
So I did call FAAN. And they said I should look on their website at "how to read a label" for milk products. I looked on there but I did not see this information except for a resource card that I could purchase. If anyone else sees this information on the site, let me know. I assume I am looking to see if "chocolate" would be listed as a milk ingredient. In which case, I assume it WOULD be. That is why this issue is so tricky. We all know, that in general, chocolate has milk. But there ARE ways to do chocolate without milk...with cocoa with alkali or chocolate liquor....and maybe some others. So I still feel like there's not a real answer yet.
MINI OREO RECALL FOR MILK CONTAMINATION 2005
On another interesting note, I found a milk allergy recall on Oreos from 2005. You can read the FDA release here. The recall is for mini oreos. The mini oreos were supposed to be milk free but a certain batch ended up with pieces of Ritz Bitz Cheese Sandwiches in them, thus contaminating the Oreos with milk. They, at the time, were saying there is not supposed to be milk in Mini Oreos. With that said, I will copy and paste the ingredient list for Mini Oreos from the Nabisco website. Notice chocolate is the last ingredient.
One concern, however, would be if the ingredients have changed from the time of the recall mentioned above and the posting of these current ingredients on the Nabisco website.
OREO 100 CALORIE PACK THIN CRISPS RECALL
Keep that in mind, too, with this next recall. This is regarding Oreo 100 Calorie Pack Thin Crisps. They were recalled because they were included in a variety box with Chips Ahoy Crisps. The Chips Ahoy Crisps contained milk. The Oreo Crisps did not. But the box that contained both, did not say milk was contained in the Chips Ahoy Crisps. I can't find the ingredient list for Oreo 100 Calorie Packs online. But I would guess that they too have chocolate as an ingredient. And if so, this recall is saying they should not contain milk. Unless, of course, the ingredient list was different than it is now.
PETA OMITS ORIGINAL OREOS FROM VEGAN LIST?
Another concern that I have is that PETA's "accidentally vegan" list omits the regular Oreos. I am not a PETA member. But I do like the accidentally vegan list because it gives me a reference for finding safe snacks. I do remember consulting this list before starting Oreos, and I really thought they were on there as ok. But I could be wrong. Now the list only has "Spring Oreos", "Uh Oh Oreos", and "Chocolate Cream Oreos". So if regular Oreos aren't on there, is it because PETA believes they contain milk?
SOME AVOID ALL ALLERGEN PRODUCTION LINES
There are some allergy parents who do not allow their children to have foods that are processed by companies that process other foods with their allergen. For example, they would not let their children have Oreos, even if they were milk-free, because Nabisco makes products like Ritz Cheese Crackers. Some parents like to find out specifically about facilities and production lines before they give their kids certain processed foods. Kudos to the parents who take the time to check things out thoroughly.
SOME PARENTS DON'T ALLOW PROCESSED FOODS
And then there are the parents who don't want to feed their kids processed foods anyways. They prefer to bake nutritious snacks at home. Kudos to those moms, too! The best we do around here is maintain balance. I have some convenient foods around but also like to make nutritious treats from scratch.
OREOS USED TO CONTAIN WHEY?
I got a chance to read some vegan message boards from recent years and learned a little more on this topic. Vegans, like us allergy moms, have been trying to figure out if Oreos contain milk as well. So now I don't feel so "stupid". Obviously there is not an easy answer. They mentioned a few interesting things. One is that apparently Oreos are made in several different places and ingredients can vary by region. Two is that Oreo has changed the ingredients at times. Some were saying they used to contain whey and that was THEIR main topic at hand regarding milk. They weren't even discussing the "chocolate" ingredient as we are today. I have not heard of them containing whey, but apparently that was one of the ingredients taken out some time back.
ALTERNATIVES TO OREOS
I will also add that Famous Amos chocolate cookies are listed on the accidentally vegan list by PETA, the ingredient list looked fine to me at the store yesterday, and these are pretty similar to Oreos. These might be a good option for allergy moms not wanting to risk consuming Oreos.
OTHER MILK-FREE COOKIES CONTAIN "CHOCOLATE"
I noticed on chocolate Teddy Grahams and Meijer Brand Chocolate Graham Crackers that both contain the ingredient "chocolate". But both say in the allergy warning that they contain just wheat and soy. So in these two items the chocolate appears to be dairy-free. Oreos do not contain an allergy warning line so I think that causes some of the confusion.
WE EAT MOST OREOS DESPITE A VERY HIGH MILK ALLERGY
(Just not the ones dipped in chocolate)
I know many milk allergic kids who are eating Oreos with no problem. My kid is one of them. I can only speak about his experience, which is that he does have a veryhigh allergy. It ranks a Class 2 right now but was a Class 4 when he started eating Oreos. He had an anaphalactic reaction to milk contained in baby food after eating about a half of a jar. He tested as Class 4 at that time. At a Class 3 last year, his body broke out in hives all up and down his body, for an hour, after having 1 cc of milk at the allergist's office. He now tests as a Class 2 but our allergist, with his reaction history, opted not to do skin or live tests at Class 2 this year.
However, besides the first anaphylactic reaction to baby food and that 1 cc drop of milk during live testing, Miles has never had milk "baked into something". The allergist said that he could possibly tolerate milk baked in but that she recommends we still continue with strict avoidance. So if Oreos DO have milk, I guess he IS tolerating "baked in" milk. But I'm really leaning toward the thought that Oreos do not have milk based on what Nabisco said, the info in the Oreo recalls, and Miles's history of eating them safely especially when his allergy was at its highest level.
UPDATE 2013: My son has been eating up to 3 Nilla Wafers with baked-in milk for 2 years. But 1/4 of a muffin with baked in milk gives him runny nose, coughing, and watery eyes (seen in the allergist's office). We see none of these symptoms with Oreos. I still don't believe that Oreos have baked in milk from our experiences.
TELL US YOUR EXPERIENCE
Please comment on this post and tell us if your milk allergic child eats Oreos or if he/she has had a reaction to Oreos. Please include how severe the milk allergy is, as well. This info will help the hundreds of people who read this post each day. Thanks so much! We hope this information has been helpful to you.
ALWAYS CHECK LABELS.
INGREDIENTS CAN CHANGE.
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