Lactose is a sugar present in milk and its derivatives, formed by glucose and galactose, and its intolerance is caused by the incapacity for breaking the link between both monosaccharides which prevents its digestion.

This ability is regulated by a polymorphism, a small genetic change which enables or disables its digestion, as well as by the daily lactose dosage. If we stop ingesting lactose, our digestion capacity will diminish and in case we want to reintroduce it, we will have to do so step by step.

It is of big importance to not confuse lactose intolerance and milk allergy, which is caused by an immune system’s reaction to the proteins (casein, …), or galactosemia (congenital disease).

To identify whether a product has lactose in its composition, we must read the Ingredients list and look for words such as: lactose, milk, or any of its derivatives, which will be written in a different typology, because milk is a mandatory declaration allergen.

Information on milk and lactose should always be provided to the consumer before he validates the purchase, either by the product’s label, or through internet if it is being sold online, and so on.

Compared to gluten, “LACTOSE-FREE” AND “VERY LOW LACTOSE” are not regulated, and thus EFSA recommendations are usually followed, which became a reference guide, even though they do not have a binding character.

LACTOSE FREE: lactose absence proved by the most sensitive techniques, meaning less than 0,01% lactose. If a food does not contain milk naturally, LACTOSE-FREE shall only be used when not all the similar foods own this same characteristic, such as: charcuterie, sauces, etc.

VERY LOW LACTOSE:  residual lactose content, less than 1%.

For people suffering from galactosemia, or with milk allergy, LACTOSE-FREE products are also not suitable.  

In the food supplements category exist products that contain lactose and therefore, legally LACTOSE-FREE statement can be used. But it is important to keep in mind that the aim is to provide easy and comprehensive information to the consumer when we use these statements.