This Chinese ice cream won't melt, even in fire - so what on Earth is in it?

A handout. Premium Chinese ice-cream bar that doesn’t melt even when set on fire prompts regulator to investigate.
PHOTO: South China Morning Post

A luxury Chinese ice-cream brand is at the centre of controversy after revelations that its products do not melt in hot temperatures or when exposed to fire prompting questions about what is in its products.

Earlier this week, a viral short video clip showed an internet user testing a Zhong Xue Gao brand ice cream by burning part of it with a lighter and showing that it does not melt, China News Service reported.

In the video, smoke soon appeared after the ice cream touched the fire, and the scent of burnt food could be smelled, according to the report.

The ice cream was exposed to room temperatures of 31 degrees.
PHOTO: Baidu

The footage was released after another social media post claimed that the brand’s bay salt coconut flavour ice cream did not melt at a temperature of 31 degrees after more than 50 minutes.

The video, viewed 500 million times on Weibo, showed the ice cream stayed in a sticky state, rather than melting into liquid as normal ice cream would.

Dubbed the “Hermes of ice cream”, Shanghai-based Zhong Xue Gao has been popular in major cities across the mainland, despite its relatively high price of about 20 yuan (S$4.20) for an ice cream bar, several times the cost of most of its competitors. Some of its premier-edition ice creams are sold at 70 yuan or higher.

An officer from local regulator the Shanghai Market Supervision and Management Bureau said on Tuesday that they were aware of the videos and said it is investigating the case, the report said.

However, after a lengthy period it still had not melted.
PHOTO: Baidu

“The test results from professional testing institutions should be more authoritative,” the official said. “To our naked eyes, the ice cream did not melt. But this conclusion would be better supported by scientific data.”

Zhong Xue Gao said on Wednesday that all of its products are in line with quality standards set by China’s national authority.

“The main components of the baysalt coconut-flavoured ice cream are milk, single cream, coconut pulp, condensed milk and milk powder. Forty per cent of this ice cream is solid materials,” the company claimed in a statement released on Weibo.

It said it has added 0.032 grams of carrageenans, which is a seaweed extract, in ice cream products that weigh 78 grams each, and that meets national regulations.

The company said carrageenans are widely applied in ice creams and beverages. There is some evidence that it can cause health problems and even cancer, but this is debatable as this information comes from studies on animals and cells only.

The two videos have caught public attention in China following public anger over price hikes for a majority of ice creams on the market this summer, with many people complaining it’s hard to find ice creams sold at below 10 yuan.

Industry insiders said ice creams are more expensive this year because of higher production and distribution costs, the 21st Century Business Herald reported.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.