What Have They Done to My Ice Cream?: Pointless Additives and Augmentations

No Longer Natural; Real, only in the technical sense.
No Longer Natural; Real, only in the technical sense.

There’s little I love better for dessert than peach ice cream.  After the back of winter is broken and the world has come alive again–in the unfurling and moist warmth of spring or the languid, steeped afternoons of summer–it’s a part of my childhood.  The plush sweetness of peaches and the sharp, sheered cliffs of slowly melting ice cream standing in the glass world of a bowl are something I look forward to.  But something has changed.  It could have been done quite some time ago–it’s been years since I could afford the price of their product.  Still, I find myself disappointed.

Breyers Has Sold Out

I remember eschewing other brands of ice cream because their list of ingredients was cluttered with thickeners–gums and waxes that had no business in my dessert bowl–and gobs of high fructose corn syrup, among other disgusting substances.  I don’t like gummy, sloppy or clumpy ice cream.  I always loved Breyers, because they made a point of using only a few ingredients–milk, cream, sugar, and the flavorings–fruit, vanilla bean, chocolate or what have you.

Tonight, much to my dismay, the joy went out of peach ice cream.  The bowl of sloppy, soft-shouldered, gummy ice cream was nothing that I wanted.  Real ice cream shouldn’t melt like that, and the texture should be much firmer.  I rushed to the freezer and took up the carton, turning it to read the fine print of ingredients.  There, instead of the faithful four or five was a list that included carnauba wax, carageenan gum, high fructose corn syrup–in addition to sugar–and xanthan gum.

I gave an anguished cry and hesitated only a moment before tossing my almost untouched bowl of ice cream down the drain.  This horrible Frankenstein’s Monster was not what I wanted.  It’s not that I have any nutritional objections to most of them–excepting high fructose corn syrup.  But there’s no reason to put them in ice cream which is more delicious without them.  And I won’t have any of that stupid talk about thickening agents and whatnot, because it didn’t used to be in there and now it is.


Why Is It Cheaper to Add Crap to Food? 

This defies my grasp of logic.  I walk along the isles of the grocery store and I note the premium price tags appended to the products that aren’t fucked around with.  Why should I have to pay for companies to leave things out of my food?  Perhaps my disgruntlement with Breyers Ice Cream goes a bit deeper.  I understand the downsizing of the carton.  Things cost more these days.  But that I should be expected to pay the same price for this chemical feast as I do the Turkey Hill “All Natural” varieties is a bit tough to take.  If the logic of additives and lower prices applies across the board, they’re in violation.  They added crap, so I shouldn’t have to pay as much for their substandard product.

This is something I notice in a great many foods, and I think we, as consumers, need to put our collective foot down.  In many cases, there might be concern about the health impacts of some additives.  As far as the case of the disappointingly revolting ice cream–I’m simply miffed that they want to overcharge for crap that isn’t any good.  It’s a case of value of my dollars.  Also, I’m mad because I feel that my consumer trust has been violated.  How much more severe might it be if, trusting a brand that has always insisted on its quality reputation, I consume a product without thinking to check the ingredients and suffer some ill effect?


When Pointless Additives Aren’t Harmless

Oh, right…I have the perfect example of this.  A friend of mine has Celiac.  She has always used a nutritional supplement product, Ultra Super Mega Awesome Green Max (Insert 16 more words of your choice here) Nutrition.  I make fun of it, but it was one of the things that helped her to maintain an adequate level of nutrition.  Especially just before she discovered she had Celiac Disease, her immune system was quite busy trying to kill her and she wasn’t absorbing the nutrients she needed from food.  The particular company that makes the products she incorporated into a liquid nutrition shake had long been making these products without gluten.

Now, I won’t name the company or the actual products until I’ve thoroughly lambasted their entire customer service department and they’ve made sufficient amends to my friend.  But basically, the story follows a sad and predictable pattern.  My friend has been using these products for about a decade without ill effect.  However, the latest batch she bought was “New and Improved”–which, by the way, is technically impossible.  It has to be one or the other.  They really didn’t specify how they’d altered the ingredients, and certainly didn’t print any visible warning on the package.  It turns out that the “new and improved” ingredients included barley malt, which is a nasty bugger for those with Celiac.

My friend, not thinking to distrust a company that has always produced healthful, reliably high-quality products that were safe for her to use, proceeded to use this speciously “improved” formula.  I’m pretty sure shitting (more) blood and not knowing how you’ve been contaminated with gluten doesn’t feel very “improved.”  I’m pretty sure it feels like dying.  When she called the customer service number to lodge a complaint and see if there was anything they could offer her as a replacement, they were tacitly unhelpful and kind of stupid.  None of her questions were answered, and she never did find out why the malt was added to the ingredients, because it isn’t a large enough amount to serve as a thickener or sweetener.  Just enough to tie her to the bathroom and rob her of the will to live.


Now, I understand that we have an industrial food complex.  Our food is bound to the concept of the factory.  I’m not saying that we should veer entirely away from that, but I will shout at the top of my lungs that some of the “logic” that is in play today makes no fucking sense.  My food doesn’t need to be augmented half as much as most of it is.  When I investigate why, I’m often met with a political reason, rather than a rational or nutritional one.  There’s wheat in my lunch meat because…wheat subsidies.  There’s corn syrup in my bread because…corn subsidies.  What ends up happening is that I stop buying certain foods.  I learn to make my own or find an acceptable substitute.

I’m buying an ice cream maker or giving it up altogether, because I’ve had enough of you fucks, you ice cream companies.  I gave up lunch meat, macaroni and cheese, and sliced bread for a variety of reasons, chief among them, utter disgust at the number of stupid and pointless additives.  Will they kill you?  How should I know.  What I do know is I see no reason to eat crap that is hidden behind the ostensible form and function of the food I purchase.  It’s a personal call.  I don’t expect the food industry to change on my account, but I’m managing just as well without them as they are without me.


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