Usually, the goal with ice cream is to eat it as quickly as possible — whether that’s because you’re trying to avoid having it drip down your arm or you just can’t help yourself. But one woman in Australia was left dumbstruck when a half-eaten ice cream sandwich was left out in 26 C heat for four days and it didn’t melt.
Mary Salter, a grandmother in New South Wales, wrote a Facebook post that has gone viral asking national supermarket chain Coles why their signature brand ice cream sandwich wouldn’t melt, nor would any animals or insects go near it.
Her concern was about the ingredients included in the ice cream that prevented it from melting, despite sitting under the sun.
“Now I am a little concerned just WHAT is in this ‘treat,'” she wrote.
As it turns out, there’s no cause for alarm, Douglas Goff, food science professor and departmental undergraduate faculty adviser at the University of Guelph, tells Global News. He says Salter’s experience isn’t unique, either. In 2014, similar concerns were expressed over an ice cream sandwich sold at Walmart that also appeared to be impervious to the natural melting process.
“The stabilizers that are used to provide the shape retention required to make an ice cream sandwich lead to a slow meltdown,” he says. “The ice cream in the sandwich contains air — ice cream is a foam — and fat, and what happens is that the fat surrounds the air bubbles to lead to a strong structure, and that is reinforced by the stabilizers in the water phase. If it is slightly over-stabilized, the meltdown is too slow.”
A Coles spokesperson responded to Salter’s concerns in a statement provided to News.com.au, echoing Goff’s explanation.
“Our ice cream sandwiches make use of very simple, commonly used food techniques that help slow the melting process, and allows you to consume it without it falling apart in your hands. This technique includes adding thickener to the cream, creating a honeycomb-like structure which helps to slow the melting process. When the product starts to melt and liquid evaporates, you are left with what appears as foam.”
In addition, Goff says, there is nothing hazardous about the techniques or the ingredients used to help prevent meltdown.
“They are all polysaccharide dietary fibres, like guar gum, so there’s no health issue,” he says. “In fact, they add to our soluble dietary fibre intake. It is much like whipped toppings like Cool Whip, for example, which can also have very stable foam and fat structures that would produce the same effect.”
So, go ahead and enjoy your ice cream sandwiches this summer. And don’t worry about taking your sweet time eating them, either.