Sorbates in Ice Cream

Reader Clare asks:

Are sorbates used in ice cream? If so, why?

Yes, indeed you’ll find potassium sorbate or “sorbic acid” in more than a few fruit flavored ice creams. The reason is not to suppress molds and/or yeasts in the ice cream, because the cold would take care of that. The reason is because most of the fruits that reach ice cream factories — especially if they’re dried — have already been treated with sorbic acid to prevent microbial growth during transit.

This is another interesting dimension of food labeling: not all additives are added in the facility where the finished food is made. Packaged food makers have suppliers, and frequently those suppliers use additives of their own. But just like the last person leaving the restaurant gets stuck with the check, it’s the finished food maker that must list every last one of those additives on the product’s label.

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