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Homemade Ice Cream:
A Safe Summertime Treat

Eating ice cream to beat the summer heat is one of America’s favorite past times. And the rich, creamy flavor of homemade ice cream is especially tasty.

But the gastronomical delight of homemade ice cream can give some people gastric distress, or even worse, a serious illness. Every year it causes several outbreaks of salmonella infection with up to several hundred victims at church picnics, family reunions, or other large gatherings.

You can still enjoy homemade ice cream made from eggs without the side effects by preparing it safely. The use of egg products, egg substitutes, shell eggs that are pasteurized or by using a cooked egg base are a few of the ways to help make homemade ice cream safer to eat.

Egg products are eggs that have been removed from their shells and pasteurized. Pasteurization is a heat process that destroys salmonella in eggs without cooking them. Egg products may be liquid, frozen, or dried whole eggs, whites, yolks, or blends of egg and other ingredients. Egg products are not widely available in retail stores; they are predominantly used in institutional food service. “Egg substitutes.” Which are also pasteurized, may be liquid or frozen and contain only the white of the egg, the part that doesn’t have fat and cholesterol.

Shell eggs can also be pasteurized. These eggs are not as widely available as egg products and egg substitutes, but they are easily recognizable in the refrigerated dairy case at some stores. The FDA requires pasteurized shell eggs to be individually marked or specially packaged. Each egg must be marked to indicate that it has been pasteurized, or the carton must be shrink-wrapped or otherwise packaged so it’s easy to tell if it has been opened before purchased, allowing for possible intermingling of pasteurized and unpasteurized eggs.

Unpasteurized shell eggs, the kind regularly found in grocery stores, also can be used to make ice cream as long as they are cooked properly. To prepare homemade ice cream this way, mix the eggs and milk to make a custard base and then cook to an internal temperature of 160oF, which will destroy salmonella, if present. Use a food thermometer to make sure the mixture reaches the correct temperature and resist the temptation to taste-test it during preparation when the custard isn’t fully cooked. After cooking, chill the custard thoroughly before freezing.

Even when using pasteurized products, consumers should start with a cooked base for optimal safety, especially if serving people at high risk. Additionally, make sure that the dairy ingredients you use to prepare homemade ice cream, such as milk and cream, are pasteurized.

Another option is to make eggless ice cream.