Bacterial contamination and quality defects: The consumer ministry has found germs in ice cream from ice cream parlors.
The Hessian state laboratory published the results of an investigation in August, in which every seventh ice sample showed excessive bacterial loads. Now the consumer advice center North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) has come to similar results in its own study. According to this, a quarter of the samples were too exposed to enterobacteria and in around 20 percent of the milk ice cream samples, more than half of the fat was foreign fat.
From the end of July to mid-August 2010, the consumer center tested a portion of vanilla ice cream in a cup at 39 fixed and five mobile locations. In the laboratory, the samples were then examined for bacterial load and foreign fat content. In around a quarter of the samples, there was considerable contamination with enterobacteria - of more than 500 germs per gram. Thus not only the guideline value but also the warning value was exceeded and the ice cream should actually no longer be sold. In addition, the proportion of foreign fat in the total fat content was over 50 percent in every fifth ice sample. According to the consumer association, this is a misleading label, since milk ice cream can only be made using milk fat. Over 40 percent of the samples were rejected by the consumer advice center.
According to the consumer protection center, the high level of germs can primarily be explained by the inconsistent use of hygiene regulations, with ice cream scoops in particular being considered risk factors. Because these would have to be rinsed under running water after each use, but most ice cream parlors usually only use a vessel with standing water for cleaning. In this way, the portioners create a breeding ground for germs.
Enterobacteria are only directly hazardous to health for people with a weakened immune system, in whom they can cause abdominal pain, stomach and intestinal diseases and diarrhea. The health risk from germs is, however, relatively low. Worse is the damage to the image that the ice cream parlors suffer from the results of the investigation. Even if Annalisa Carnio, the spokeswoman for the Association of Artisanal Italian Ice Cream Manufacturers in Germany. (Uniteis e.V.) expressly differentiates the quality of the products of its association members from the results obtained here. According to her, no defects have been found in any of the Uniteis businesses for ten years, with around half of the artisanal ice cream parlors in Germany being organized by Uniteis. To ensure that there are still no defects, the Uniteis members are regularly advised and trained by a hygiene institute, because "quality is the first priority", emphasized Annalisa Carnio. In their opinion, the reason for the poor performance of many ice cream parlors is that anyone can open an ice cream parlor without having previously completed the two-year training as an ice cream maker.
As a consequence of the results of the investigation, the consumer advice center calls for stricter and more frequent controls of the ice cream parlors and sales stands. For this reason, the consumer protection center also works closely with the food control and forwards the results of their investigations to them. In addition to manufacturers and supermarkets, food monitoring in North Rhine-Westphalia is also responsible for ice cream parlors and, according to the state consumer protection ministry, took around 6,000 samples of ice cream and desserts last year, eight percent of which were complained about on the basis of the applicable regulations.
The ice cream parlors are in a difficult position this year anyway, as total sales have declined by an average of 20 percent due to the rainy weather and the brief heat wave. Research results such as now from North Rhine-Westphalia certainly do not help and put an additional burden on the industry. So there is also growing interest among ice cream sellers in introducing an incentive-punishment system. For example, using smiley plaques, awards are given to food companies that distinguish themselves through particularly good hygiene during controls, and companies that stand out negatively are published on the Internet as soon as the first violation (after the legally prescribed objection period has expired). (fp)
Every fourth ice cream contaminated with germs
Every seventh ice cream is contaminated with germs
Image: Rainer Sturm / pixelio.de