FDA Ice Cream Regulations

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

The FDA has regulations regarding ice cream so that consumers know exactly what kind of product they are getting. Fats and milk solids have certain FDA regulations regarding ice cream as well as lower fat and reduced calorie products. The air content of ice cream is also taken into account. Flavors and sweeteners added to this product are allowed, but must be labeled appropriately. These FDA ice cream regulations help consumers make the best decision regarding their frozen dessert.

Fats and milk solids

Ice cream can be made from any combination of a variety of milk products such as cream, milk, butter, condensed milk and skim milk, just to name a few. However, the fat content and the amount of milk solids must meet minimum FDA requirements.

Ice cream must weigh at least 4.5 pounds per gallon and must have at least 1.6 pounds of total solids per gallon. At least 20 percent of the weight must come from milk solids, with at least 10 percent of that being milk fat. As the percentage of milk fat increases, the percentage of other milk solids necessary to meet the 20 percent FDA requirement decreases.

The fat in ice cream has to come from milk. No other fat is allowed except for what occurs naturally in ingredients used for flavoring, such as chocolate and nuts. When adjustments are made to compensate for the flavoring ingredients, the milk fat must still account for at least 8 percent of the total weight of the ice cream. Milk solids must also be at least 16 percent of the total weight after adjustments.

Premium products will have higher fat contents, which provide the improved taste and texture often associated with these products.

Lower fat and reduced calorie products

Since the fat content is a large part of what makes ice cream what it is, it is necessary to differentiate between lower fat and reduced calorie alternatives.

Reduced fat products have 25 percent less fat than regular ice cream. Light ice cream has either 33 percent less calories or 50 percent less fat. Low fat ice cream has 3 grams of fat or less per serving. Nonfat ice cream has .5 grams of fat or less per serving.

Air content

Whipping air into the ice cream during the manufacturing process is often done to make it lighter and give it a fluffier texture. Sometimes whipping air into this frozen dessert is done to help reduce the fat content. However, to be considered ice cream it still has to weigh at least 4.5 pounds per gallon.

Cheaper products tend to contain more air and often barely make the weight FDA requirement to be called ice cream. Since premium products contain more milk fat, there will be less air.

Flavors and sweeteners

Both natural and artificial flavors and sweeteners are allowed in ice cream. Natural flavors include things like cocoa, nuts, fruits, fruit juices, vanilla beans and extracts. How a product is labeled will tell you if there are artificial flavors included. A product with only natural flavors would be labeled “vanilla ice cream”, while a product that contains both would be labeled “vanilla flavored ice cream”. A product that contains both types but has more artificial flavoring must be labeled “artificially flavored vanilla ice cream”.

Any FDA approved sweetener can be used, whether it is natural or artificial. Artificial sweeteners are more common in products specifically designed to be lower calorie. These sweeteners usually appear on the ingredients list by their generic names, rather than the brand names consumers are more familiar with.

What do these FDA ice cream regulations mean to consumers?

Many of those treats you find in stores will not meet the FDA standard and cannot legally be called ice cream. There are FDA standards for other frozen desserts, like sherbet and frozen custard, that must be met for those products. Many products go by names like “frozen dairy dessert”. There is no FDA standard for frozen dairy dessert, other than it is manufactured like ice cream and doesn’t contain enough milk products or milk fat to be called ice cream.

So what goes into frozen dairy desserts? Technically, manufacturers could put anything they want in these products, as long as the ingredients still meet the FDA requirement for “dairy”. Often, chemical additives are used to compensate for the lack of flavor and texture.

Looking to enjoy some premium ice cream? For questions or additional information about any of our KaleidoScoops premium ice cream products, call us today at (877) 426-8488 or connect with us via email. Read more about our company on our website and Get The Scoop on becoming a KaleidoScoops co-op owner.