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Q. Is there any type of milk alternative on Pesach for those who are allergic to milk protein or sensitive to milk sugar (lactose)?
A. Rice milk and soy milk are common milk substitutes. Both beverages are kitnios and are, therefore, surely not permitted for Ashkenazim who are in good health and can manage without these items, but they may be halachically appropriate for someone with a medical condition. A more serious concern is that these items often contain chametz either in the enzyme (a barley-based beta amylase) or in the flavoring. Similar concerns apply to almond milk, cashew milk, and coconut milk (although these three are not inherently kitnios). [Both the enzyme and flavoring comprise less than 1/60 of the beverage but cannot be batel because they respectively serve the role as davar hama’amid or milsah d’avidah lit’amah.] A more recent concern is that the milk might be hot pasteurized on equipment used for oat milk.
Please check the cRc Pesach Guide or website for details as to which brands are acceptable for this year.
Some people react negatively to lactose-containing milk, because their bodies do not produce enough lactase, the enzyme which digests lactose. These people can drink regular cow’s milk without any complications if (a) the lactase enzyme is mixed into the milk or (b) they take a pill of lactase together with their milk. [Lactaid is a popular brand for both forms of lactase.] The Pesach concern with this solution is that lactase is commonly created through a process known as Koji fermentation, which uses wheat bran as a primary ingredient. Therefore, the cRc policy is that one may use milk containing lactase if the lactase was added by the company before Pesach, and one may use non-chewable lactase pills on Pesach. However, one may not add lactase-drops to milk on Pesach, and one may not use chewable lactase pills (even if the person swallows them).