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State May Crack Down on Small Batch Ice Cream Makers

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Aug 6, 2011 2:22PM

Tribune reporters Monica Eng and Chris Borrelli filed a shocker of a story yesterday that's yet another case of government in action. According to guidelines established by the Illinois Department of Public Health, small batch ice cream makers such as Black Dog Gelato, Nice Cream Company and Ruth and Phil's run the risk of being shut down because they're beholden to the same regulations and guidelines as larger ice cream makers like Haagen Dazs and Dean's.

Nice Cream's Kris Swanberg said she found out when an IDPH inspector visited her at Logan Square Kitchen (where she makes her ice creams) and said she couldn't operate without having "a dairy license."

It was the first time Swanberg had ever heard of a dairy license, but it also opened up a can of worms for her and others who operate out of shared kitchens. They also have to work out of their own space instead of shared kitchens like Logan Square Kitchen; change labeling to meet state standards; have their product tested once a month for bacterial levels; use either irradiated fruits or syrups; and either pasteurize the creams they use a second time using a state-approved machine or use a pre-mixed solution similar to what Dairy Queen and other soft serve chains use.

Additionally, the recently passed Illinois Local Food Entrepreneur and Cottage Food Operation Act which suggests separate sets of regulations for mass-market and artisan food producers, doesn't apply to ice cream.

In short, the IDPH wants Nice Cream, Black Dog et al., in order to make their product "safe" for retail consumption, to prepare it in the same way as a pint of Ben & Jerry's. Of course, disagreeing with any example of government spending priorities makes you a terrorist, albeit in this case one covered in fudge and sprinkles that hasn't been pasteurized twice.