Ice cream sandwiches are a delicious summer treat. But what should you do if you notice your favorite frozen convection won’t melt, even if it sits in direct sunlight?
No, this isn’t something out of a science fiction story—but science is the culprit.
Down Under Ice Cream Blunder
Mary Salter, a grandmother from New South Wales, Australia, was spending a sunny afternoon with her grandson when they decided to indulge in some ice cream sandwiches. Salter’s grandson ended up tossing his broken treat onto the ground, with one piece landing in the grass and the other on the cement driveway.
Salter left the pieces of the ice cream sandwich out for any animals or ants to enjoy, but after some time she noticed something unnerving. The ice cream sandwich wasn’t melting—at all. After four days, no dogs, birds, or ants ate the sweet treat, and it still had not melted. Therefore, Salter reached out to the company to express her concern.
This Isn’t the First Time Desserts Have Freaked Us Out
Salter isn’t the only person who has dealt with ice cream treats that wouldn’t melt. In 2014, a similar situation arose when Christie Watson, a mother from Cincinnati, noticed an unmeltable ice cream sandwich that her kids abandoned on the patio table outside. The sandwich sat outside in 80-degree weather for over 12 hours and barely changed.
Watson decided to do a test, so she placed a second sandwich outside overnight. The results were identical—the ice cream refused to melt. Watson checked the ingredients and “Ice cream” was the first ingredient listed, but she worried when she saw the additives that followed.
Cream and Sugar and a Little Extra
The rate at which ice cream melts depends on how much cream it contains. However, companies often use additives to help control melting rates of packaged treats, so they don’t fall apart while people are eating them.
The cream and fat content, plus stabilizers like calcium sulfate and guar gum, can turn a seemingly ordinary ice cream sandwich into a tasty science project.
A food manufacturer’s spokesperson spoke with Australian news site news.com.au, explaining this process.
“Our ice cream sandwiches make use of very simple, commonly-used food techniques that help slow the melting process, and allows you to consume it without it falling apart in your hands,” the spokesperson explained. “This technique includes adding thickener to the cream, creating a honeycomb-like structure which helps to slow the melting process. When the product starts to melt and liquid evaporates, you are left with what appears as foam.”
High-fat content and additives don’t just reside in the freezer section of the grocery store. Another famous meal that defies the laws of nature is the McDonald’s Happy Meal. In 2010, Sally Davies purchased a happy meal from a McDonald’s near her apartment with the goal of photographing its decomposition process.
Davies didn’t have any luck documenting the breakdown of the meal because, after seven years, it hasn’t changed. The Happy Meal Project is still going strong, with the burger and fries showing no signs of mold. How can this be possible? The answer traces back to the meal’s high fat and salt content, plus a few preservatives.
In their defense, McDonald’s isn’t doing anything that isn’t already done by other processed-food companies. That said, it definitely makes you think twice about choosing your next meal.