Traditional ice cream under threat with EU rules

S Luca is confident its ice cream, above, will not suffer from rivals' cheaper product. Picture: Colin Hattersley
S Luca is confident its ice cream, above, will not suffer from rivals' cheaper product. Picture: Colin Hattersley
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IN VICTORIAN times, it was a product that would be unrecognisable to modern sellers of ice cream – containing nasties such as straw, dog hair and cotton fibre.

But now, a treat marketing itself as “ice cream” could once more contain far more than the basic milk and cream used by today’s producers – after the introduction of new European Union regulations paved the way for manufacturers to create a product with “artificial” ingredients, including meat fats and proteins.

The Ice Cream Alliance, the industry body for the ice cream trade, has warned that traditional ice cream makers could be under threat from cut-price rivals after the removal of the long-standing quality criteria, which have previously required a minimum amount of milk and milk fats to be present to pass the legal food standard.

But the removal of the regulations would allow producers to use cheaper ingredients such as meat fats, which could lead to the market being flooded with “ice creams” sold for far cheaper than the milk-based recipe used by traditional manufacturers.

“This EU rule change has opened the floodgates to inferior products coming on to the market purporting to be traditional ice cream,” Zelica Carr, chief executive of the Ice Cream Alliance (ICA), said.

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“This poses a real threat to the quality of ice cream on sale in the UK and we are determined to do all we can to protect our much-loved traditional ice cream. Without a legal standard in place, there is nothing stopping manufacturers using meat protein and meat fats instead of milk and calling it ice cream.”

In response, the organisation has launched a UK-only kitemark to ensure consumers can be sure that they are buying a traditional ice cream.

Ms Carr added: “By looking for the ICA logo, consumers can be sure that they are buying a traditional ice cream made with milk protein and dairy ice cream made only with milk fat and protein.”

The independent ice cream trade in Scotland is dominated by companies run by families with Italian origins, who brought the product from Europe around 100 years ago.

Yolanda Luca, director at ice cream firm S Luca of Musselburgh, said traditional makers were unlikely to be concerned by non-dairy rivals.

“There have been products on sale for a long time which are marketed as a sort of ice cream, but have almost no dairy in them – they are so light, you can tell immediately,” she said. “Some people will want to buy those if they fit their budget. It doesn’t concern us as we don’t make ice cream like that.”

Owen Hazel, owner of Jannettas Gelateria, which has shops in both St Andrews and Perth, said: “There has always been a variety of ice-cream products on the market and, although we will look forward to digesting the implications of this new legislation in finer detail, these changes will not affect us – we will continue to do what we do every day, which is producing the finest Gelato with the finest ingredients, the core ethos on which our family business is built.”

The national standards for the composition of ice cream were removed last Friday after the Westminster government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs adopted EU rules.

The trade in ice cream is worth £1 billion to the UK economy, according to latest estimates.

A Defra spokesperson said: “These new regulations will strengthen the future of great British ice cream. Previously products made using just fresh double cream couldn’t be called ice-cream, whereas those made using powdered milk could.

“Removing these old regulations means businesses making their product from real cream can now call it what it is - ice cream.

“We’ve put our British producers on an equal footing with the rest of Europe so they can sell their delicious products without being constrained by outdated rules.”

Pies, bananas and hoovers all targeted

The European Union has long enjoyed a reputation for messing with guidance relating to foodstuffs in British stores.

Earlier this year, changes to the way animals are inspected sparked fears diseased meat could end up in sausages and pies. In the past, carcasses were cut open for inspection, allowing officials to check for tumours in pigs’s heads, but under the new regulations supported by Britain’s Food Standards Agency, they now have to rely on visual checks alone.

Previous EU rules on the appearance of fruit and vegetables, such as straight bananas, were scrapped after a consumer outcry.Other non-food items hit by EU legislation include traditional lightbulbs – which were phased out in favour of eco bulbs – which critics claim do not shine as brightly as their incandescent counterparts, and powerful vacuum cleaners, which have been outlawed.

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