Hello Dolly (Madison) – The Cold Facts About Kosher Ice Cream

Ice Cream is an age-old Dessert Favorite. Historical annals and popular anecdotes date the invention or discovery of ice cream (or something like it!) back thousands of years.

It is reported that the Roman emperor, Nero (37-68), consumed ice with fruit toppings (ancient sorbet?), and that the Chinese King Tang (618-697) made ice and milk blends. Rumors have it that ice cream as we know it originated in China and made its way to Europe via Marco Polo (1254-1324), where it was developed for Italian and French royalty as a specialized and sophisticated treat. Later, the French chef of British King Charles I introduced ice cream to England in the early 1600’s.

In America, Philip Lenzi advertised in New York City that he would sell ice cream as part of his confectionary offerings, and Dolley Madison served ice cream in 1813 to guests at the inaugural ball of her husband, United States President James Madison. (The ice cream brand named after her dropped the “e” in the spelling of Mrs. Madison’s name.) Ice cream has taken off as a beloved sweet on these shores ever since, although it took about a century until it was popularized and mass-produced in an economical fashion, as inventors worked hard to manufacture and improve special ice cream processing and freezing equipment.

As this is an OU Kosher publication, let’s digress from the history and examine the manufacture and kosher issues relating to ice cream and frozen desserts in modern times.

What exactly goes into certifying kosher ice cream? How is the OU able to design kosher programs of the highest caliber that are equally flexible to meet the needs of our client companies? Let’s take a look at the basics of ice cream and frozen dessert certification for some insight.

All ice cream and frozen dessert production can be divided into two phases: pre-pasteurization and post-pasteurization.

The pre-pasteurization phase is where the base is manufactured. In the case of ice cream, the base includes cream and very often non-fat milk (to lower fat content), as well as whey, sweetener, stabilizers and sometimes emulsifiers. Non-dairy frozen dessert base – used for sorbet,water ices and twin pops – also consists of sweetener and stabilizers and may contain emulsifiers, but the bulk of the base is water rather than cream and dairy additives.

Although many of the above ingredients would seem to be innocuous from a kosher perspective, they are in reality potential hazards. Cream can be sourced from cheese plants, where often non-kosher whey cream (a by-product of cheese-making) may be blended in with outgoing cream shipments. Non-fat dry milk can be spray-dried on equipment shared with all types of materials, very feasibly rendering otherwise kosher product processed on this equipment as non-kosher. Stabilizers often contain gelatin sourced from pigs or from cows which are not kosher-processed, and emulsifiers can derive from beef tallow or be manufactured on equipment common to beef tallow production. Thus, all components of ice cream and frozen dessert base clearly need reliable kosher verification.

To the surprise of most kosher consumers, the majority of ice cream and frozen dessert operations which manufacture kosher products are not fully-kosher facilities. This poses many serious challenges for kosher certification, especially at the prepasteurization phase of production.

OU policy is that the ice cream and frozen dessert bases produced in these “mixed” kosher/non-kosher plants must always be kosher in order for the plants to merit certification. There are two reasons for this: Firstly, non-kosher ingredients that are pasteurized will compromise the kosher status of the pasteurization equipment, thereby impeding or grossly complicating kosher certification of other products in the plant. Secondly, it is almost impossible and highly impractical to segregate kosher and non-kosher base ingredients, as they are normally totally compatible and interchangeable. Cream is cream, whey is whey, and so forth; these raw materials are basically generic.To authorize the use of kosher and non-kosher sources of these commodity materials is asking for trouble – at least from the standpoint of the OU and responsible kosher certification.

The post-pasteurization phase of manufacture is simpler as regards kosher issues but more complex in terms of production. Subsequent to pasteurization and cooling, the ice cream mix settles, is flavored as it passes through a flavor tank, is partially frozen in a barrel freezer while air is whipped into it, and is finally filled into containers or molded on to sticks, after which it is hardened in an arctic-deep freeze. The best thing about all of this from a kosher perspective is that no heat is used, and equipment is therefore not likely to become non-kosher if non-kosher ingredients come into play at this stage.

The result is that the OU can certify plants which manufacture both kosher and non-kosher rocky road ice cream, for example. Non-kosher rocky road usually contains marshmallow bits derived from non-kosher gelatin sources, while the kosher version typically uses vegetable-based marshmallow ribbon. “Mixed” kosher/non-kosher facilities also sometimes utilize kosher and non-kosher colorants (such as natural red – otherwise known as carmine – derived from beetle extract) as well as kosher and non-kosher flavors and variegates. In all such cases, the OU does its best to enable plant flexibility and the maximization of OU certification, developing advanced kosher systems to deal with all scenarios, in an effort to accommodate clientele as best as possible.

This involves the OU rabbinic field representative (RFR) reviewing formulas, clean-out procedures and production logs in order to carefully track the kosher integrity of certified product, as well as the plants’ profile specifications of each ingredient and product including a kosher designation status.

Non-dairy frozen desserts are usually manufactured in plants and on lines that are primarily dedicated to ice cream (dairy) production. This means that a pasteurization system, which is in dairy mode most of the time, will also process nondairy dessert base.The problem is that many companies wish for their non-dairy products to be kosher-certified as pareve – meaning non-dairy.This means that the equipment cannot bear a dairy status under kosher specifications. How does the OU certify non-dairy frozen desserts processed on dairy equipment?

The answer is by kosherizing the pasteurization equipment, meaning that this equipment is sanitized in a manner that renders it pareve according to kosher regulations.

Kosherization involves a) allowing the equipment to be down for 24 hours after cleaning, or treatment with caustic solution, and b) a scalding fresh water rinse. Because the requisite temperatures for the caustic and fresh water steps are usually somewhat higher than the average CIP, these procedures need to be carefully reviewed and implemented in consultation with the OU’s senior staff to assure a reliable system. This can entail kosherization with an on-site RFR, or – if the plant can accommodate it – kosherization can be accomplished by programming the CIP system to always function at kosherization temperatures, with the RFR reviewing Taylor charts to verify this upon his regular visits.

The OU is proud to be the premiere kosher certifier of the finest and most diverse array of ice cream and frozen desserts, from traditional and historic brands such as Dolly Madison, Bresler’s, Schrafft’s and Eskimo Pie; to contemporary favorites such as Dreyer’s Grand/Edy’s, Haagen Dazs, Well’s Dairy, Nestle and Safeway; to specialties and novelties such as Tropicana Fruit Bars, Sharon’s Sorbet, FrozFruit and Snapple On Ice.

The OU is privileged to be on the front lines in certifying the world’s finest ice cream and frozen dessert companies, and we are ready to work with our clients to develop systems that assure unquestionable kosher quality while providing the personal and professional service for which we are renowned.

OU Kosher Staff