TEST REPORT : Loose ice cream
- Posted by CERC India
- Posted in Press Releases
Loose ice cream: A dangerous dessert
70% loose ice cream samples had extremely high levels of coliform bacteria; 50% gola samples had food colours above limit
Ahmedabad, 31 January 2019
Grahak Sathi (Feb-Mar 2019), the National Consumer Magazine in Hindi published by Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC), Ahmedabad, recently released findings of its comparative product testing on loose ice cream and ice candy (gola).
A popular dessert, ice cream is sold in packages or loose at retail outlets. Loose ice cream is usually distributed manually in scoops, cones or sundaes. As children of vulnerable age groups form the bulk of ice cream consumers, it is vital that it is microbiologically safe.
To assess safety, CERC tested 10 samples of loose ice cream and 4 of gola from different parts of Ahmedabad. They were tested for three microbiological parameters and synthetic food colours. The samples were tested according to limits set by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). The test findings were somewhat alarming, indicating microbiological contamination in ice cream and excess use of colours in golas.
KEY FINDINGS(See table for details)
- Of the 10 loose ice cream samples, 7 had very high Coliform count, much above the limit, which is indicative of possible faecal contamination.
- Only one sample had Total Plate Count above the limit, which implies presence of bacteria.
- Of the four gola samples, two had synthetic food colours above the maximum limit.
- coli was absent in all the ice cream samples.
- The three samples of loose ice cream tested for synthetic food colours had food colours within the limit.
- Three ice cream samples complied with all the four parameters.
- All four gola samples had microbiological parameters within the limits.
Loose Ice Cream and Ice Candy: Test Results
|Total Plate Count
|Coliform count (cfu/gm)
|Synthetic food colours (ppm3)
|Max. 200000 cfu/gm
|Max. 100 cfu/gm
|Should be Absent
|Max. 100 ppm
|Ice candy (gola)
1Areas in Ahmedabad from where the samples were collected
2cfu refers to colony forming units
3ppm refers to parts per million
Â Significance of parameters
Total Plate Count: This test determines the total number of aerobic bacteria and is an indicator of the bacterial populations of a sample.
Â Coliform bacteria: These are important in quality control as they indicate possible faecal contamination and presence of other pathogens in the sample. Coliform bacteria can cause bloody diarrhoea, vomiting, gastroenteritis, urinary tract infections and typhoid.
Escherichia coli (E. coli): Some E. coli can cause severe diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting even if ingested in small amounts.
Synthetic food colours: Food dyes make food appealing but have been linked to cancer, DNA damage and attention-deficit disorder and hyperactivity in children.
Sources of contamination
Primary sources of microbial contamination of ice cream include water and raw milk, whereas secondary sources include flavouring agents, dirty utensils and equipment, and unhygienic handling.
Ice cream can get contaminated during production, transit or storage. Proper pasteurization can destroy most pathogens. However, microbiological hazards can be introduced after pasteurization through contaminated ingredients and improper handling. Improper storage (including not maintaining required temperature) leads to multiplication of pathogens to infective doses.
Leaving food open, inadequate hand-washing by food handlers (especially after toilet use) and coughing and sneezing near the food without covering the mouth and nose, can lead to contamination. Often, loose ice cream and gola is sold on streets in a dirty environment by food handlers with limited education and poor knowledge of hygiene. Ice golas are usually made under unhygienic conditions. The water used to prepare the ice may be contaminated and can cause serious infections.
Areas of action
- Manufacturers should obtain ingredients from licensed sources and store both ingredients and final product at proper temperatures.
- They should keep all equipment clean and observe hygienic practices during preparation.
- Regulatory bodies should constantly monitor quality to ensure food processing standards are maintained at production, processing, packaging and storage stages.
- Food handlers need to be educated on the importance of good sanitary practices.
Â Advice to consumers
- Consumers should buy ice cream from reputed shops after checking the expiry date.
- They should store ice cream in the freezer after purchase. Never allow ice cream to thaw and re-freeze it. Ice cream can pose a danger after purchase if it has melted and then been re-frozen.Â It can cause food poisoning. Ice cream melts fairly rapidly at room temperature and the milky, sugary, liquid concoction is a perfect petri dish for bacteria like listeria. Put the tub back in the freezer once youâ€™ve scooped out the amount you want.
- Golas may be full of synthetic colours. Consumers should keep consumption to the minimum.
Grahak Sathiâ€™s conclusion
The presence of coliforms in 70% of loose ice cream samples tested is a matter of concern. It could indicate faulty pasteurization. Other reasons for contamination may come from water, lack of personal hygiene of the food handlers or dirty utensils used for storing ice cream. It is essential that food business operators manufacture/sell healthy and safe food to consumers. Blistering heat tempts consumers to have golas. There is a serious need for Regulatory Authorities to ensure they become safer.Â
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