by: Kathrine Nero
November 6, 2006
The fat and calories in ice cream have many of us doing without the double dips, but scientists are looking to a little-known fish to pull your diet out of the deep freeze.
You may have seen it on store shelves: new low-fat ice cream with all the flavor of the real stuff.
But a University of Cincinnati researcher says to stay away from the sweet treat- that flavor may bring with it some unintended consequences.
As manufacturers strive for that rich and creamy but low fat combination, it's another combination: a DNA combination that is causing some strong controversy.
Ice cream scientists are adding a cloned protein from the arctic pout fish that keeps it from freezing in icy water.
"Their basic approach is to continue to freeze the ice cream and whip it under agitation down to a much lower temperature," explains Bruce Tharp, a food scientist with Tharp's Food Tech.
It keeps the ice crystals small and makes a lower-fat flavor taste creamier.
"This is delicious," said one taster. "It doesn't taste any different than the fattening kind."
But it becomes genetically modified, and thats hard for one University of Cincinnati professor to stomach
"I think we're opening the door into a dark room, and we don't know what the hazards are in the dark room and I would urge caution," said David Fankhauser, a UC Genetic Specialist.
Some corn, soybeans and sweet potatoes are also genetically modified, but you wouldn't know because the FDA doesn't require genetically altered foods to be labeled as such.
Dr. Fankhauser says that's the problem because we still don't know the long-term effects.
"We need to be able to continue monitoring in the population that's consuming it. Without labeling, how will we know?" Fankhauser said.
It's not all about making foods taste better, either. Genetic modification can make crops resist bugs and viruses and can increase milk and egg production.
But until he knows exactly what he's scooping into that cone, Dr. Fankhauser says he'll pass.
"Actually, I like to make my own ice cream," said Dr. Fankhauser.
That may be the only way to be absolutely sure the food you're eating isn't genetically modified.
The fish protein is used in Breyer's Double Churned Ice Cream products and in some of their popsicle products.
Breyer's says "consumer reaction to the entire double-churned line has been very positive."
So choose for yourself.