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If It Doesn’t Melt, Is It Still Considered Ice Cream?

A Cincinnati woman was alarmed to discover the ice cream she serves her family doesn't melt. How does the FDA define "ice cream" anyway?

ice cream sandwich

Photo: Wolfman-K (Flickr)

If left in heat, will it melt?

When her son’s ice cream sandwich refused to melt, a Cincinnati mother decided to investigate what exactly she was feeding her family.

Heat Wave

Christie Watson told WCPO Cincinnati that when her son left a Walmart Great Value brand ice cream sandwich outside overnight, the ice cream did not melt despite the 80 degree temperatures.

She inspected the box, but nowhere did it claim to be artificial.

WCPO decided to investigate further, comparing Great Value ice cream products to Häagen-Dazs ice cream and a Klondike bar. All three products were set in the hot sun for an hour and measured for how much they melted.

The Great Value ice cream hardly melted, while the Klondike bar partially melted. The Häagen-Dazs ice cream melted completely.

Cream And Chemistry

Walmart argued that their ice cream contains more cream, and therefore, melts more slowly.

Although cream does melt more slowly, that didn’t hold up against Häagen-Dazs, whose simple ingredients include cream, milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla.

Both Great Value ice cream sandwiches and Klondike bars have stabilizers, like guar gum and cellulose gum. Both are classified as safe for human consumption by the FDA.

The gums (and other ingredients like corn syrup) aren’t enough for a product to be considered “artificial”—at least not by FDA standards.

What Defines ‘Dairy?’

The FDA defines ice cream as “a food produced by freezing, while stirring, a pasteurized mix consisting of one or more of the optional dairy ingredients” and “may contain one or more of the optional caseinates.”

The paragraph outlining what “optional dairy ingredients” are is quite lengthy, but some highlights include plastic cream, modified whey products and “skim milk in concentrated or dried form that has been modified by treating the concentrated skim milk with calcium hydroxide and disodium phosphate.”

A relatively low amount of milkfat and milk solids needs to be present for frozen goods to be labelled “ice cream.”

Dessert Rainbow

Not enough science in your dairy dessert? A Spanish physicist Manuel Linares has invented ice cream that changes color as you lick it.

Linares calls his creation Xamaleón. It starts out baby blue, then a spray turns it purple, and it continues to change color with each lick.

Linares insists the ice cream is made of natural ingredients, though he won’t divulge what they are just yet. He points out most food changes color with oxidation and/or temperature.

Read More:

  • Why a Walmart ice cream sandwich just won’t melt (Los Angeles Times)
  • Walmart Ice Cream Sandwich Does Not Melt (The Guardian)
  • Scientist invents ice cream that changes color as you lick it (Gizmodo)
Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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