Ice Cream Regulations – Federal Standards for Retailers

As with any food business, government standards require a list of ice cream regulations.  In addition to food preparation, safety and cleanliness issues, ice cream retailers must adhere to certain guidelines when labeling their products.

Ice Cream Regulations

In order for a product to be called ice cream, it must be made from dairy products.  This includes cow milk, creams, and nonfat milks.  It is also possible for ice cream retailers to sell products from other types of milk, such as goat milk, and to still label their products as ice cream.  Additionally, ice cream regulations state that the product must have a minimum of 10 percent milk fat.  It also must weigh at least 4.5 pounds per gallon.

Ice cream retailers who sell products with a minimum of 1.4 percent egg yolk are required to call their product French ice cream or frozen custard.  It also must contain 10 percent milk fat for ice cream retailers to label it as ice cream.

Light ice cream by law must contain 50% or less fat than a similar food, which is an adequate reference.


Sherbet Regulations

Ice cream retailers selling sherbet can only have 1-2 percent milk fat in their product and 2-5 percent total milk solids.  Sherbet must weigh at least 6 pounds per gallon and has 25-50% less overrun than ice cream.


Water Ice Regulations

Water Ice is the same as sherbet except that water ice is not allowed by federal guidelines to contain any egg yolk or milk solids.  Water ices typically will have around 0-30% overrun.


Sorbet Regulations

Sorbet also has similar elements to sherbet and water ice.  However, sorbet typically will have a high amount of sugar and a high amount of fruit or fruit juice.  Sorbet also often contains stabilizers such as egg whites or fruit pectin.  Sorbet overrun is at most 20%.


Frozen Yogurt and Gelato Regulations

Ice cream retailers selling frozen yogurt and gelato have much more room for diversity in their products because there is no federal standard for their labeling.  However, many states have labeling guidelines for ice cream retailers who sell these products.


Why  Ice Cream Regulations Matter

It is important that ice cream retailers are kept to a strict guideline and adhere to ice cream regulations when making their product.  This is especially true because the public is not generally aware of the difference between sorbet, ice cream and other frozen desserts.

The regulations for labeling products from ice cream retailers insure that buyers are getting what they are looking for in a product.  Keep in mind that there is still a lot of leeway in these labeling laws.   Obviously, the ice cream that you buy from McDonalds has a very different taste than the ice cream you buy from homemade-style ice cream retailers.  Yet both of these products are legally ice cream.

If you are looking to serve any of these frozen deserts, make sure you adhere to the ice cream regulations set by the government.  This will ensure you are serving a high quality produce while meeting the guidelines required of you.

Jason Lexell

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