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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegetarianism in the News


January 1, 2003 -- Vegparadise News Bureau


Non-dairy Creamers Are Not
What They're Quacked Up To Be


If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it's not a duck because the duck experts say it isn't a duck. If a powder is derived from milk and altered considerably, the manufacturers are able to call it non-dairy because they have persuaded a government agency that it is non-dairy.

Savvy consumers reading the label on this product would quickly realize that many non-dairy creamers are not non-dairy because the labels clearly indicate the product contains sodium caseinate (a milk derivative).

Dairy scientists and the Food and Drug Administration agree that these are non-dairy creamers because the caseinate has been so altered it can no longer be considered dairy. According to the information on the Coffee-mate website, "When sodium caseinate is processed, it is so materially altered that both dairy scientists and government regulators no longer regard it as a true dairy substance. This is why sodium caseinate can be an ingredient in non-dairy products according to FDA's regulation 21 CFR101.4 (d). Sodium caseinate also is not a source of lactose."

Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 101 deals with food labeling. Section 101.4 presents the rules for designation of ingredients in foods. Section 101.4 (d) reads as follows:

When foods characterized on the label as "nondairy" contain a caseinate ingredient, the caseinate ingredient shall be followed by a parenthetical statement identifying its source. For example, if the manufacturer uses the term "nondairy" on a creamer that contains sodium caseinate, it shall include a parenthetical term such as "a milk derivative" after the listing of sodium caseinate in the ingredient list.

Weighing in on the issue is the Union of Orthodox rabbis who certify kosher products. To satisfy this group Nestle Carnation has modified the label on the packaging. On the website, the company states, "NESTLE CARNATION COFFEE-MATE products are non-dairy and are Kosher according to the Orthodox Union (as indicated by the 'O.U.' symbol). As a courtesy we place a "D" next to the Kosher symbol, 'O.U.', to alert those who adhere to strict religious practices. COFFEE-MATE contains an ingredient called sodium caseinate which is a milk derivative, but is classified as a non-dairy product."

NESTLE CARNATION COFFEE-MATE was the first non-dairy powdered creamer making its debut in 1961. In 1989 the company launched its Liquid Non-Dairy Creamer. Nestle, the world's largest food company has been harshly criticized in recent years for its aggressive marketing techniques for its baby formula in third world countries. Their efforts have encouraged women in those countries to abandon nursing and use Nestle formula instead.

Sharing shelf space with Coffee-mate in the coffee section and in the refrigerated case are two other major brands: Borden Cremora from Eagle Family Foods and International Delight from Morningstar, a division of Suiza Foods Company. Suiza is part of Dean Foods, a huge dairy conglomerate. Morningstar is not to be confused with Morningstar Farms, a division of Kellogg's that produces vegetarian foods.

The principal ingredients in all of these nondairy creamers are sugars and vegetable oils. The three brands contain partially hydrogenated oils loaded with trans fats. The Coffee-mate label indicates the oil could be any of the following: coconut, palm kernel, soybean, cottonseed, or safflower. The sugars are a combination of corn syrup, maltodextrin, and sugar.

All three brands contain sodium caseinate. The sodium caseinate's purpose is to provide a hint of dairy flavor as well as to create a thickening and whitening for a creamy look and feel. Sodium caseinate is obtained from fresh and pasteurized skim milk by acid coagulation of the casein, neutralization with sodium hydroxide, and drying in a spray dryer.

Common among the nondairy creamers is dipotassium phosphate (a powder used to moderate coffee acidity), mono and diglycerides (to prevent oil separation), and natural and artificial flavors and colors.

Those seeking a vegan non-dairy creamer that is "truly" without milk derivatives could find two soy-based brands on the shelves of health food stores or large supermarkets with health food sections.

Westsoy Crème de la Soy is made from organic soybeans, filtered water, brown rice syrup, organic expeller pressed soybean oil, natural flavors, dipotassium phosphate, and carrageenan (a thickener derived from a red seaweed commonly called Irish Moss). Westsoy is a division of Hain Food Group, a natural food conglomerate.

Another vegan creamer is Silk Original Creamer produced by White Wave. This product contains filtered water, whole organic soybeans, expeller pressed organic canola oil, naturally milled organic evaporated cane juice, maltodextrin (from corn), soy lecithin, potassium phosphate, sodium citrate, carageenan, tapioca starch, and natural flavors. White Wave is now a division of dairy conglomerate Dean Foods that also produces International Delight creamers.

In our opinion most non-dairy creamers flunk the test. The first and only question on the test asks whether the creamer is non-dairy. Those that contain sodium caseinate are not what they're quacked up to be!


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