FromQuarkstoQuasars

Why Don’t Walmart’s Ice Cream Sandwiches Melt?

Jolene CreightonAugust 1st 2014
walmart ice cream sandwich
Walmart’s ice cream sandwiches do not melt after 60 minutes in 80 degree weather.

It’s not sorcery. It’s science.

Anyone who has browsed about on social media recently has likely heard about an amazing discovery: Ice cream sandwiches that don’t melt. It sounds like something that comes from an Asimovian sci-fi fantasy novel, but it is true. Walmart’s ice cream sandwiches simply don’t melt. This story came to light after one mother, Christie Watson, noticed that her son’s ice cream sandwich failed to melt after spending some 12 hours basking beneath the hot summer sun.

According to Watson, it was approximately 80°F at the time (26.6°C). Such temperatures are certainly hot enough to melt the kind of ice cream that most of us are familiar with. This left Watson stupefied.

Perhaps she read the labels wrong. Perhaps, when she thought she was purchasing ice cream, she was actually buying some kind of strange candy. She checked the label to test this hypotheses. “I looked at the box,” Watson reports, “and it doesn’t say ‘artificial ice cream.’ It says ‘ice cream.'” So like any good scientist, Watson decided to test another ice cream bar to double check her previous results. She took another ice cream sandwich and left it sitting out overnight.  The next morning, she discovered that the “ice cream” still hadn’t melted.

This should cause a bit of concern for ice cream enthusiasts.

As most of us probably already know, ice cream is a delicious frozen treat that is (most often)  made from dairy products. You take some milk or cream, add sugar and other flavorings—and BOOM—you’ve got ice cream. Admittedly, in some instances, artificial flavorings and colors are added. However, most would not suspect that artificial ice cream was being added to ice cream sandwiches. Could that be what is happening here?

Dan Collins, of KIKN 100.5 in Sioux Falls, tested a number of different frozen snacks to see if the phenomenon of non-melting ice cream was a problem that extended beyond Walmart’s version of ice cream. He obtained a Walmart Great Value sandwich, a Klondike Bar sandwich, and a cup of Haagen Dazs. At room temperature, all of these should melt in no time. Collins left them in the hot sun for 30 minutes. Here are his results:

  • The Haagen Dazs quickly melted and turned into a puddle.
  • The Klondike sandwich melted for the most part.
  • The Walmart sandwich remained (essentially) solid in appearance, and it still looked the same.

So, how is this possible? In a statement, Walmart asserts that the cause is (for some inexplicable reason) the cream that is used in their ice cream:

Ice cream melts based on the ingredients including cream. Ice cream with more cream will generally melt at a slower rate, which is the case with our Great Value ice cream sandwiches. In the frozen aisles, Great Value ice cream sandwiches are one of the top sellers, and we are glad to be able to offer a great treat that families love.

In reality, it seems that gum is to blame. Haagen Dazs contains just cream, milk, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Walmart’s ice cream sandwiches (and to a lesser extent, Unilever’s Klondike Bars) contain “stabilizers” of guar gum and cellulose gum. Ultimately, these gums are what cause the ice cream to keep its shape and remain un-melted. The gum minimizes the amount of ice crystals that can form in the ice cream, and so it helps the ice cream keeps its consistency.

It may sound a tad horrifying, but nutritional scientist and culinary professor Grace Yek asserts that there is nothing wrong with these ingredients: “Stabilizers have gotten a bad wrap because it’s foreign, and sounds suspect. They are fine, for normal average consumption.” Yek also notes that Walmart’s stabilizers of guar gum and cellulose gum are plant-based, and that the FDA considers them safe.

So despite the slower melting time of the Walmart ice cream sandwiches, they are just as healthy as other ice cream and meet all FDA guidelines. Still, there seems to be something a little…off-putting with ice cream that does not melt. Ultimately, when you get to the food aisle, the choice is yours. Choose wisely (read the ingredients).

Watch the original report below:

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