Is your Ice Cream Gluten Free?
Real Food Musings

Is your Ice Cream Gluten Free?

When we think of ice cream we don’t typically think of gluten.  Ice cream should be made from Milk, Cream, Sugar and Flavorings, it should be gluten free.  Read on to find out what else may be lurking in that bowl or gluten free cone.

A dear friend of mine stopped by the other day to visit after my surgery.  She brought a few groceries; some fresh fruit, vegetables, and ice cream.  She thought it would be nice for my son to have a treat.  I thanked my friend profusely while my husband put the groceries away.  The brand of ice cream my friend brought was Turkey Hill, and that evening, after reading the label I realized that the ice cream would need to be discarded.  The Allergen Statement on the container simply stated “CONTAINS MILK”.  My son is not allergic to milk, so why was I planning on discarding the ice cream?  A closer inspection of the ingredients showed hidden allergens.  When you or your loved one suffers from food allergies or sensitivities label reading skills are not only important, they become mandatory. I know many ingredients require a degree in Chemistry to understand, but if you don’t recognize an ingredient a quick search on google will certainly provide you with the needed information.

As I read through the ingredients on the package of ice cream my alarm went off when I saw the terms “Mono and Diglycerides” and “Polysorbate 80”.  If you have Celiac Disease or are gluten sensitive you should be wary about consuming products with Mono and Digycerides.  Why, because these fats frequently contain wheat as a carrier ingredient.  Simply, a carrier ingredient is something added to foods along with additives to make them perform in a certain fashion.   Remember, under current FDA regulations a carrier ingredient falls into the category of “additive” and it is not required to be listed as an ingredient.  Polysorbate 80 is an emulsifier typically derived from corn (or soybeans).  Both mono and diglycerides and polysorbate 80 are suspect ingredients, and have caused my son to have allergic reactions in the past, therefore we avoid them.

I decided to see what information I could find on the Turkey Hill Website and I was quite impressed!  The following information was detailed in the company’s nutrition facts, so kudos to Turkey Hill for providing full disclosure!

From the Turkey Hill Website:

Guar Gum and other ordinary nutrients with really weird names.

Corn Syrup

This is sugar made from, you guessed it, corn. By blending it with regular cane sugar, the ice cream is made creamier and easier to scoop.


Whey is a natural milk product widely used in frozen desserts. It helps make our products creamy.

Mono & Diglycerides

Monoglycerides and diglycerides are different kinds of fat made from vegetables and soybeans. (Most of the fat we consume falls into the triglyceride category.) These ingredients keep the ice cream from separating once mixed. Since only a tiny amount is used, monoglycerides and diglycerides do not contribute any measurable fat calories.

Guar Gum

This ingredient comes from the guar bean grown in the Southwestern United States. It’s almost a magic bean, in that guar gum does a lot to keep ice cream smooth and creamy, even after heat shock from improper storage or handling.

Polysorbate 80

Polysorbate 80 is made from soybeans and corn and helps in the whipping and freezing of the ice cream.


Taken from a plant that grows on the rocky coast of Ireland, carrageenan is used in frozen desserts to maintain a consistent texture.

Caramel and Other Colors

Remember the clear colas? They weren’t accepted by soda drinkers for one important reason – we eat with our eyes as well as our mouth. That’s why, from time to time, Turkey Hill adds FDA-approved colors to give the product the look people expect. Whenever possible, Turkey Hill uses naturally derived colors like the red from beet juice and yellow from the annatto plant.

For those wondering, Turkey Hill does manufacturer several ice cream flavors that are Gluten Free and All Natural.  The flavors include:  Vanilla, Chocolate, Cherry Vanilla, Mint Chocolate Chip, Coffee and Vanilla/Chocolate/Butter Almond (These are currently sold in Black Cartons). Haagen-dazs, Blue Bunny and Trader Joe’s also have lines that are all natural and gluten free.  Finally, for my Canadian friends!  You may want to look for Mapleton’s Organic Ice Cream, or Organic Meadow Ice Cream if the brands listed above are not available in your area.