July is National Ice Cream Month, which dates back to 1984 when President Reagan issued a Presidential Proclamation and Congress issued a joint resolution to celebrate this “nutritious and wholesome food.” President Reagan wasn’t alone in referring to ice cream as a nutritious; several others did too during a Congressional hearing in 1977, which was held in response to FDA changing the food standard for ice cream. It’s hard to imagine anyone now referring to ice cream as nutritious — Consumer Report recently contemplated if it could ever be healthy.
But ice cream’s downfall from being considered a nutritious snack or the politics of the ice cream food standard are for another day. Instead, we remember a long retired Jell-o product: Jell-o Ice Cream Powder.
This product offered a no fuss way to make ice cream in your own house. Get a quart of milk and the Jell-o Ice Cream Powder, then mix them together and place the mixture into your favorite hand-cranked ice cream maker (known then as an “ice cream freezer” or just “freezer”). In not much time, you’ve got homemade ice cream, all while toning your arms.
You were not limited to the five flavor offerings: strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, lemon, and unflavored. The Genesee Pure Food Company (eventually now Kraft Foods) has several recipes and tips for making different flavors, which can be found in pamphlets, like this one. Additionally, they recommend the White Mountain Freezer to make this nutritious dessert because it “requires less work … and gives best results.”
This Jell-o product’s origin dates back almost as far as its more famous sibling — Jell-o gelatin. But the ice cream powder is now largely forgotten, such that I cannot find an end marketing date. I suspect the rise of home freezers that could store manufactured ice cream bought at the grocery store caused the downfall of this product.
But what’s the FDA connection here, beyond FDA regulated it as a food product? To be honest, that is the primary connection, but the adventure into this food product was sparked from an FDA seizure in 1943 of “150 cases of assorted flavors of Jell-o Ice Cream Powder.”
The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 and the current Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires that a food’s label must include “an accurate statement of the quantity of the contents.” Section 403(e)(2). These products in the 150 cases failed to accurately declare their contents, rather they “were short-weight.” As such, FDA filed a suit against the 150 cases of Jell-o Ice Cream Powder. Sadly no one showed up in court to defend them so they were condemned and became the property of the United States.
Once the U.S. Government wins this type of suit, as it did here, they can destroy the goods or they can sell the goods. FDCA, Section 304(e)(1). From time-to-time, the Government would donate the goods: here giving Jell-o Ice Cream Powder “to various welfare organization” or, in a different case, giving boxes of Cracker Jack to inmates. This type of Government seizure though is largely unheard of now as reflected in FDA’s enforcement summary:
So FDA’s use of their seizure power is much like Jell-o Ice Cream Powder: a thing of the past.