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Friday, August 1, 2014

Walmart Must Tell Us Why Their Ice Cream Sandwiches Don't Melt

Heather Callaghan

For at least one week, the World Wide Web has been in an uproar about Walmart's Great Value ice cream sandwiches that won't melt after 12 hours in 80-degree heat. The issue was raised in this WPCO report when a Cincinnati mother, Christie Watson, saw that her child's ice cream sandwich simply wouldn't melt.

Then, Dan Collins of KIKN 100.5 in Sioux Falls also put the sandwiches to the test:


Some consumers are freaking out, while others are trying to quell the "alarmism." Is there a cause to be worried about this everlasting gobstopping creation?

And, are people focusing on the wrong argument?

In the original story's experiment, Haagen Dazs melted quickly (it only has 5 ingredients), followed by Klondike sandwiches at a much slower rate - but it still melted. News anchor John Maltese believes that Walmart brand is safe according the FDA and repeatedly tells viewers not to waste their money on premium brands.

Now, here's what's in Great Value vanilla ice cream sandwiches. All bolding below is mine.


Ice Cream (Milk, Cream, Buttermilk, Sugar, Whey, Corn Syrup, Contains 1% Or Less of Mono-And Diglycerides, Vanilla Extract, Guar Gum, Calcium Sulfate, Carob Bean Gum, Cellulose Gum, Carrageenan, Artificial Flavor, Annatto For Color), Wafers (Wheat Flour, Sugar, Soybean Oil, Palm Oil, Cocoa, Dextrose, Caramel Color, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Flour, Food Starch-Modified, Salt Soy Lecithin, Baking Soda, Artificial Flavor).
What we're looking at are a bunch of fillers, stabilizers, emulsifiers and thickeners. Cellulose Gum, for instance, is made from wood pulp. This post suggest it absorbs 20 times its weight. Emulsifiers help with oil/water dispersal. Furthermore, ice cream can be filled with a lot of air. There are a few more industry shortcuts at the bottom of this article.

Walmart had this response:

Ice cream melts based on the ingredients including cream. Ice cream with more cream (sic) will generally melt at a slower rate, which is the case with our Great Value ice cream sandwiches....[emphasis mine]
Well, not exactly... higher fat content will melt faster. Higher water content like in non-fat items will melt slower. (Post-Gazette) But I digress... I need to emphasize this - we're not wondering about slower rates, but no melting rate.The following bulleted websites offer explanations about Walmart's ice cream and why we people should relax and move on - nothing to see here. They basically say the same things about fat content, stabilizers, gums, emulsifiers, corn syrups and thickeners. A lot of articles on the subject reference the Post-Gazette article even though it goes counter to Walmart's claims and never talks about ice cream that forgets to eventually melt.
These compounds [versus regular ice cream] are the main cause of an ice cream sandwich’s startling stability. 
It’s more solid and less melty, so it won’t fall apart in your hand when you bite it. These properties are thanks to the viscosity added by guar gum and calcium sulfate. 
Guar gum is a polysaccharide (a molecule made of multiple sugars) extracted from the guar bean. It’s a plain white powder that is obtained by milling the matured beans. If “natural” food is a concern for you, guar gum is about as natural as it gets. It acts as an emulsifier, which means it thickens in water and stabilizes thawing... 
Calcium sulfate is useful for trapping moisture, making it a perfect partner for guar gum. The combination of these two materials thickens the ice cream and holds it together, even as the “ice” part melts. The addition of cellulose gum (another polysaccharide) enhances this effect, but it’s mostly guar gum and calcium sulfate doing the heavy lifting.
All the explanations sound like good answers to quell public concern, but do you see a pattern? No one can answer as to why this particular product doesn't melt - ever. There is talk of different melting rates, but that doesn't explain the total lack of melting. Stabilizers maintain shape and texture but what maintains frozen-ness on hot summer days?

Ice cream made for convenience includes a lot of chemistry - still nothing about inability to completely melt. All those additives amount to something that doesn't resemble actual ice cream.

The arguments about food ingredients sidestep the point that this particular brand will not melt in extreme heat. Yes, we know about the chemistry that helps it to keep its shape. We know about slower melting rates. But no one has truly explained why the ice cream won't eventually melt. The "ice" part never melted.

Also, it's not true that ice cream sandwiches don't melt. They do, even with similar thickeners, emulsifiers, stabilizers and fillers.

Look at Klondike's ingredients - melted slower, but eventually did melt - similar ingredients:

Light ice cream: nonfat milk, sugar, corn syrup, milkfat, whey, maltodextrin*, propylene glycol monoesters, cellulose gel, mono and diglycerides, cellulose gum, locust bean gum, guar gum, polysorbate 80, carrageenan, natural and artificial flavor, caramel color, annatto (for color), vitamin A palmitate. Wafer: bleached wheat flour, sugar, palm oil, caramel color, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch, baking soda, salt, cocoa, soy lecithin. *Not in regular ice cream. 
Are there other unlisted ingredients that Walmart's brand is not disclosing? Thanks to this federal regulation - CFR Title 21, Sec. 101.100 - we don't know. It exempts a lot food labeling requirements, falling back on "industry standard."

WPCO's John "Don't Waste Your Money" Maltese adds:

Bottom line: The ingredients list may be long, but the government says those ice cream sandwiches are okay to feed to the kids. 
As always, don't waste your money.
Oh... Well, when you put it that way... That's not a reason for ice cream to never melt. Maybe the question should be - do you really want to eat any of the listed ingredients? Bottom line: why waste your money on that.

Just because we're not all food chemists doesn't mean Christie Watson or you or I don't have a reason to question why a food product won't break down like its non-altered counterpart. It was perfectly rational for her to think, "What am I feeding my children?" Just because some of the ingredients are nature-derived does not make them all natural. Just because ingredients are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA does not mean they've been proven not to harm. Raising questions does not equal alarmism, but rather, it equals using your thinking faculties.

You have every right to wonder and spend your money on which ice cream you prefer. Not that anyone needed my opinion to tell them that - but they also don't need people to say "fuhgeddaboudit" and "feed your kids the cheap stuff." If actual ice cream is what you want then by all means...

Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at and Like at Facebook. 

Recent posts by Heather Callaghan:

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