Since swearing off meat, eggs and dairy at the beginning of January, the thing I’ve had the most trouble with is reading labels. Things I’ve forgotten to even consider being a source of dairy turn out — surprise! — to contain milk. I’m living with two vegan roommates right now, so they’ve helpfully pointed out to me a few times when things I think are vegan aren’t — Nut Thins almond crackers, some whole wheat bread and (I learned today) some veggie cheese slices.
This last one is puzzling, right? What’s ‘veggie cheese’ if not a non-dairy cheese substitute? The kinds I bought, both from Galaxy Nutritional Foods, are called “Veggie Slices” (mozzarella flavor) and Go Veggie (cheddar flavor). The main ingredient in the mozzarella slices is “organic soy base” (filtered water, organic soy flour), followed by casein (milk protein) and, down the list, lactic acid (a milk acid). In the cheddar, the only ingredient more prevalent than casein was water; it’s followed by canola oil, sodium phosphate and then … cheese culture and enzymes, milk and cream!
So Veggie Slices are clearly not for vegans. Who are they meant to appeal to–people who want their processed cheese slices to taste even grosser than normal? Why does this product exist????
Actually, there’s a reasonable answer: Veggie slices are lactose free. Lactose, a milk sugar, is the main thing that makes people respond negatively to milk. The lactose intolerant could, theoretically, enjoy Veggie Slices.
But while lactose intolerance isn’t actually a milk allergy (it’s a digestive issue that causes discomfort but isn’t life threatening), casein can trigger serious and even fatal allergic reactions in milk drinkers. Anyone with a suspected casein allergy (or who isn’t sure whether casein or lactose is the issue) will want to avoid Veggie Slices, too.