While ice cream brands like Breyers and Ben & Jerry’s (both owned by Unilever) have gone to the dark side, Häagen-Dazs has a new line called “Five” with only five natural ingredients. As it should be. They offer Lemon, Coffee, Vanilla Bean and Milk Chocolate. We read the ingredient lists of each of these flavors and they don’t contain anything we wouldn’t use at home, but perhaps we should question Alkali processed Cocoa (and many other products) as being natural, since natural processed Cocoa is available.
The Strause Family Creamery in the San Francisco, Ca. area also still makes a variety of ice cream flavors that are All-Natural and do not contain gums or stabilizers for those lucky few that live within there small area of influence. Some others all-natural brands that our visitors have mentioned in the comments include Three Twins Ice Cream, All-Natural Turkey Hill Ice Cream and Harris Teeter Natural Ice Cream.
Even Premium Brands like Turkey Hill, Blue Bunny and Alden’s Organic Ice Cream include locust bean gum and/or guar gum. No thanks.
What’s the Big Deal about All- Natural Anyway?
It seems a little funny to discuss eating ice cream and health in the same sentence, but if there is a choice, we will chose natural ingredients everytime over artificial or industrially processed ingredients, especially if it tastes better anyway. It also goes along with a philosophy of trying to know where your food comes from and when possible, choosing foods that are grown closer to home. How can carrageenan and most gum products fit into that philosophy when these products have to be shipped half-way around the world?
The World Powers of Ice Cream Production
Western Europe spends about $21.5 Billion and the U.S. spends $16 Billion on frozen desserts each year. Who would have thought that anyone, anywhere could out eat the U.S. in ice cream? Maybe they out spend, but not out eat. Yeah, that’s the ticket. The Swiss giant Nestle Global and UK/US Unilever Group each controlled about 17% of the World frozen dessert market. Wells Enterprises Inc (formerly Wells Dairy;U.S.) is the third largest player and controls 5% of the world market.
Nestle owns Dreyer’s/Edy’s Grand Ice Cream and Dreyers acquired Snelgrove Ice Cream. Häagen-Dazs is actually owned by General Mills, but is licensed to Nestle in the U.S.
Unilever owns ice cream brands such as Breyers, Ben and Jerry’s, Walls, Magnum, Good Humor, Cornetto, Carte d’Or Light, Solaro, Algida, Langnese, and Inmarko.
Wells Enterprises Inc. owns Blue Bunny Ice Cream.
Thickening, Stabilizing and Emulsifying Agents Added to Industrially Produced Ice Cream
I don’t know (and don’t want to know) where to buy industrially processed food products like Tara gum, Carrageenan or Mono & Diglycerides or how much they cost, but if the nice Breyer’s customer service lady tells me the addition of these products is for cost saving purposes, I will believe her. So these products cost less to add to ice cream than milk and cream. But they are also deliberately added to change the properties of the ice cream.
- Carob or Locust Bean Gum (Ceratonia siliqua)- added as a thickening or gelling agent for food technology. It is produced mainly in Mediterranean countries. The gum is processed with acids and sodium borate. The carob/locust bean powder tastes similar to cocoa powder, so that explains why carob tastes similar to chocolate.
- Guar Gum or cluster bean (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba)- also a thickening agent, and has 8 times as much thickening power as corn starch.. 60% of the Guar gum is exported from Pakistan and India. Guar is a Nitrogen fixing legume. It was once used as a non-prescription dieting aid because it caused the stomach to swell when it bound with water making people feel full. It was banned by FDA as a diet aid.
- Tara Gum (Caesalpinia pectinata)- provides freeze-thaw stability in ice cream by preventing the formation of ice crystals in ice creams – Tara is a native tree of Peru and other South American Countries and is produced from by mechanical threshing, roasting, sieving and drying.
- Carrageenan (Chondrus sp)is added to ice cream as a thickener and as a stabilizer. It is refined from sea weed, mostly from the Philippines. Carrageenan is processed by boiling or soaking seaweed in alkali (similar process used for Dutch processed cocoa). The dissolved carrageenan is leached into a solution, filtered, then coagulated in alcohol before drying.
- Annatto color is added simply for color. It comes from the Achiote tree (Bixa orellana) grown in tropical Central & South America. The color comes from the outer layers of the seeds and is process by mechanical abrasion in an aqueous alkaline hydrolysis process that isolates bixin, which is a carotenoid.
- Mono & Diglycerides are added to ice cream as emulsifiers and stabilizes which helps to mixing ingredients like oil and water and keeps them from separating over time. They can be processed from animal or plant fats triglycerides (partially hydrogenated) or can be synthetically produced from fatty acids and glycerol. They work as an emulsifier due to their unique chemistry which allows one end of the molecule to be soluble in water and the other end to be soluble in fat. Both Mono and Diglycerides are made by heating natural oils. Glycerin (or glycerol) are by products of making soap and bio-diesel (split off from fat molecules). Mono & Diglycerides are classified as emulsifiers rather than lipids, so they do not have to be listed as fat and may actually contain trans fats.
Are Thickening, Stabilizing and Emulsifying Agents Bad for You?
Not according to the USDA, in fact they are currently considered to be Natural by the USDA and these products can be also certified as Organic. All of these products also have GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status from the FDA.
Though classified as GRAS by the FDA, there has been much chatter about possible health issues from consuming Mono & Diglycerides since they are similar molecules to trans or hydrogenated fats since there are no open bonds in the molecules. Some argue that these molecules are only produced in labs and are not found in nature. It is true, that they are not found as free molecules in nature, but the human body actually produces both Mono & Diglycerides during the catabolic metabolism of fats. These molecules are further broken down into Glycerin (glycerol) and 3 fatty acids before being broken down completely to extract the energy from the molecules.
What a Gum Manufacturer Says about Adding Gums to Processed Foods
At Gumtech.com, they say “gums are good”, and that gum technology stabilizers are extremely cost efficient and “Adding gums to ice cream is no different than adding starch to a pudding.” They also state that gums are used at very low levels of less than 1% and usually even lower at about 0.1%. They also point out that gums do not mask flavors like starches and gelatins, so they are cheaper to use since less flavor needs to be added. Gums have fiber and add very few if any calories when used is these small quantities. Most gums are all natural and can be certified Kosher and organic and are gluten free. Gums do everything from adding cling, fiber and mouth feel, to reducing calories, replacing fat, stabilizing emulsions and for thickening.
I woke up this morning with a craving for Locust Bean, Guar and Tara Gum And I would like that with a side of Carrageenan. OK, fine. So according to the all knowing FDA, gums are good and safe. Remember, this is the same FDA that approved Vioxx and Fen-Phen but assumes no liability themselves. Truth is, we are not overly concerned with potential health effects of these ice cream additives. We are concerned about taste and mouth feel and simply prefer to have our ice cream without gums and stabilizers. We would like to know why the cat rejects the new Breyers Butter Pecan Frozen Dairy Dessert, when she used to beg for the old Butter Pecan Ice Cream. We will follow her suggestion and stay away from it ourselves. FYI, we found this link useful to find out where your milk comes from.
Update: The FDA has always said that emulsifiers used in food are safe, but not according to a recent study by the by Georgia State University Institute for Biomedical Sciences’ published in Nature:
Here we report that, in mice, relatively low concentrations of two commonly used emulsifiers, namely carboxymethylcellulose and polysorbate-80, induced low-grade inflammation and obesity/metabolic syndrome in wild-type hosts and promoted robust colitis in mice predisposed to this disorder.
Have IBD? Colitis? Or have general gastritis symptoms after eating products with emulsifiers (which many people who have commented on this post as well as this one have noted)? Then you definitely may want to reconsider eating those foods again.
I want to thank Breyer’s for all the years that we were able to consume their great ice cream. I want to thank Unilever for shaking us free of our ignorant and lazy bliss. We will go back to making homemade ice cream as we should have anyway. We will use only Milk, Cream, Sugar and natural fruits and nuts. We usually consume the small batches we make anyway, so it never has a chance to get icy. If it did get a little icy, who cares? It will still be better than any ice cream you can buy anywhere. And neither the FDA, the USDA or Unilever can stop us.