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Classic ingredients are being replaced with cheap fillers in the UK

Rebecca Firkser
August 28, 2018

What would you expect to see in the ingredients list on a tub of vanilla ice cream? Probably vanilla and cream; at the very least, fresh milk. Turns out, that may not be the case. Which?, a British product-reviewing publication, performed a series of tests of popular brands of vanilla ice cream to find that many were lacking those prime ingredients.

The Which? survey discovered that only 12 of the 24 ice creams they tested contained vanilla, cream, and fresh milk. One in five of the reviewed ice creams contained none of those ingredients. Instead, the survey team found that the ice creams were packed with dehydrated milk products, artificial flavorings, and oils.

The Guardian reports that up until 2015, the UK had a series of guidelines in place for food producers. These rules required that for a product to be labeled “ice cream” it must contain at least 5 percent dairy fat and 2.5 percent milk protein. However, with the introduction of a new set of guidelines known as the Food Information Regulations—which The Guardian notes were instilled to make room for low-fat and non-dairy options—food producers no longer have to abide by percentages of dairy fat and milk protein.

In the US, on the other hand, Munchies reports that the FDA requires a minimum of 10 percent dairy fat in any product labeled ice cream—this is likely why the two American brands recorded in the study, Ben & Jerry’s and Haagen-Dazs, both contain milk, cream, and vanilla.

Because they’re not being held to the old standards, it appears that many ice cream producers in the UK have opted for cheap fillers. The ingredients lists recorded in the survey contain partially reconstituted dried skimmed milk and whey protein in place of fresh milk and cream. Coconut and palm oil were often used to help with the chewy texture of the cream-less ice creams. And the generic term “flavoring” is often listed instead of vanilla beans or extract.

For example, the popular British grocery store Tesco’s Soft Scoop vanilla ice cream looks like the real deal, but its ingredients list certainly doesn’t read like ice cream. The dessert is made of “reconstituted skimmed milk concentrate, partially reconstituted whey powder (milk), glucose syrup, sugar, palm oil, dextrose, palm kernel oil, emulsifier (mono- and di-glycerides of fatty acids), flavouring, stabilisers (carob gum, guar gum), and colours (beetroot red, carotenes).” Comparatively, Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream contains cream, skim milk, cane sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla extract.

While of course there’s nothing technically wrong with the ice creams that are missing those whole-food ingredients, especially if you’re trying to save a few bucks, it’s important to think about how you’re voting with your money. It might actually feel better to support companies using classic ingredients—it’ll probably taste better too.

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