Intolerant Lactose

By Ephrayim Baskin posted August 02, 2016

No, there is not a mistake in the title. This is not an article about lactose intolerant people who can’t stomach dairy foods, rather it’s about the most frustrating, infuriating and intolerable ingredient in the entire Australian Kosher dairy industry…lactose powder. Let me explain why lactose powder irritates me so.

A lot of manufactured dairy products use milk powder instead of milk. The benefit of milk powder over milk is threefold: it is cheaper to transport (milk is about 87% water and there is no need to transport so much water), it lasts longer, and some dairy products (think chocolate) require low moisture. Most ice-creams, milk chocolate, dairy sauces, seasonings, dairy flavours, baked goods and even items like yoghurt and flavoured milk will use milk powders.

There are many types of milk powder. Changes in fat content, protein content and temperature of processing prior to drying produces powders that function differently. One of the challenges in making a consistent milk powder is that milk from cows is always differing in protein and fat content depending on the time of year, stage in lactation, species of cow and diet. To make the milk powder consistent, it needs to be standardised, for instance if there is too much protein in the milk another milk substance needs to be added to the milk to decrease the percentage of protein in the final product. This is what lactose powder is used for and subsequently most milk powders will have lactose powder added to them.

Lactose is a type of sugar that is naturally found in milk. As it exists in raw milk it is as Kosher as every other part of the milk (1). The Kosher issues with lactose is when it is extracted and made into a pure powder. Lactose powder is manufactured as a by-product of cheese production. In the process of making cheese, rennet causes the casein proteins (curd) to coagulate and are removed, leaving the whey behind. The whey is further processed to remove the whey proteins and minerals before being concentrated and dried to produce lactose powder.

Lactose powder derived from cheese production can have various Kosher concerns. Cheese which is not made under supervision of a mashgiach (2), is not Kosher, even if all the ingredients are Kosher (3). Other food that is heated with this cheese above Yad Soledes Bo (4) is also considered not Kosher (5). With this in mind, there are three ways that whey (and the lactose that is removed from it) can have Kosher concerns.

1. Whey from cheese that is made using animal rennet or flavoured with animal lipase or non-Kosher cultures, even if the curd is not heated above Yad Soledes Bo. Although the remaining amounts of animal rennet and/or lipase in the whey is miniscule, nonetheless the Chassom Sofer (6) considers this whey to be non-Kosher.

2. Whey which is heated with the curd above Yad Soledes Bo. In this scenario (which usually occurs with Swiss cheeses), the whey receives the non-Kosher status from the curds and in turn becomes non-Kosher.

3. The third scenario is in the production of mozzarella cheese. The stretchy texture of the cheese is achieved through putting the curd in hot water known as stretch water. This water becomes non-Kosher. A lot of dairy companies will ensure not to waste any water and when they finish stretching the curd they will put this water back into the whey stream or used it in some other part of the factory where it could impact the Kosher status of the whey and or other products (7).(8)

At the moment there is no Kosher lactose powder produced in Australia, so every company that wants to make Kosher milk powder needs to import lactose from overseas which is a lot more expensive.

As a result, there are only limited milk powders that are Kosher and this affects the Kosher certification of a lot of ice-creams, ice-cream toppings, chocolates, dairy confectionary and flavours. Kosher Australia has audited the two major lactose powder manufacturers in Australia and have provided them with solutions to ensure they can make Kosher lactose powder. However, for them to further consider these ideas they need to see consumer demand. Every consumer call to a dairy company requesting of them to become Kosher helps create the demand for Kosher milk powders, which in turn creates a demand for Kosher lactose powder, which in turn will open the flood gates for a lot more Kosher certified dairy products. If you would like to enjoy a greater range of Kosher dairy products, then you too are intolerant to (non-Kosher) lactose!

  1. This article is about milk in Australia which is considered to be Kosher under R’ Moshe Feinstein’s heter (Y.D.1:47-49). In the countries where R ‘Moshe’s heter does not apply or for those who do not follow R’ Moshe’s heter, the entire milk would be considered non-Kosher unless milked under supervision.
  2.  Shach requires the mashgiach to manually add the rennet (115:20)
  3.  Shulchan Aruch 115:2
  4. Literally hot enough that someone’s hand would recoil from the heat of the water. International Kosher agencies consider this to be between 45-48 degrees Celsius.
  5. Ramo YD 115:1 'וכן גבינותיכם'.
  6. Teshuvos Chassom Sofer Y.D. 77 considers the whey to be hu’amad from the non-Kosher rennet. However the Shevet HaLevi (4:86) argues that the rennet is not ma’amid the whey. Nonetheless the policy of the major international Kosher agencies is to be stringent (see Daf HaKashrus Volume 24, no. 6 (April-May 2016) and Volume 39;, no.2 (July-August 1999)). Similarly, they are stringent in the case of animal lipase and non-Kosher cultures, as these affect the taste of the whey.
  7. In one scenario, a company filtered the water and put it into the cleaning water. They then washed the entire factory with this non-Kosher water!