A religious leader in the Hindu community is asking Baskin-Robbins for an apology, accusing the ice cream giant of “non-disclosure of beef” in one of its popular ice cream flavors, and asking that it recall the product from stores and grocery shelves.
On Aug. 1, Rajan Zed, Hindu statesman and president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, published a news release that “it was shocking for Hindus to learn” that Baskin-Robbins’ Rocky Road ice cream, contains beef.
On its website, Baskin-Robbins describes its Rocky Road flavor as “Chocolate Ice Cream loaded with heaps of Mini Marshmallows & Roasted Almonds,” and it’s the marshmallows that are the source of contention, since one of the ingredients used to make marshmallows is gelatin derived from two animal sources: pigs and cows.
In the release, Zed wrote that Hindus had been eating the flavor for years and that “beef was not explicitly mentioned under the ingredients” listed on its packages and boxes. He also says that it was known to contain gelatin, but since the source of the substance was not mentioned under its “Ingredients” section, he contacted Baskin-Robbins customer service who said that the “gelatin in Rocky Road is from both porcine and beef source.”
“Consumption of beef is highly conflicting to Hindu beliefs. Cow, the seat of many deities, is sacred and has long been venerated in Hinduism,” wrote Zed, adding that it was “hard to comprehend” why the “world’s largest chain of ice cream specialty shops” didn’t mention the beef-based nature of the ingredient.
It is possible to make marshmallows and other jiggly sweets without animal products. Using thickeners such as agar agar, cornstarch, pectin and other plant-based ingredients, brands like Dandies and some Trader Joe’s marshmallow treats avoid using gelatin.
Additionally, for its marshmallow additions, Ben & Jerry’s uses carrageenan, a thickener made from seaweed, in its ice cream flavors like Phish Food, which is chocolate ice cream with “Gooey Marshmallow Swirls” and other inclusions.
“Baskin-Robbins is compliant with all regulatory standards and strives to provide clear, simple nutrition and ingredient information on menus and labels,” a Baskin-Robbins spokesperson tells TODAY.com in an email. “Our website and app provide links to ingredient information, nutritional breakdowns, lists of major allergens, and information on allergen cross-contact with other menu items at our shops.”
The spokesperson also points to its menus, which disclose that the marshmallows in Rocky Road ice cream contain gelatin.
Still, Zed has urged the CEO of Baskin-Robbins’ parent company Inspire Brands to recall all of its Rocky Road packages and boxes and replace them with those clearly marked with the source of its gelatin on the ingredients label.
Baskin-Robbins beef content isn’t the only company that Zed has asked for apologies, changes and recalls, either. Perhaps most notably, the cleric urged the Bank of Canada to produce beef-free bank notes. In a factoid about Canadian paper currency that came as a surprise to many, the producer of the notes uses beef tallow in trace amounts on each bill as an anti-static agent.
Additionally, earlier this year, Zed asked Swiss burger chain “Holy Cow! Gourmet Burger Company” to rethink its name as it was “highly insensitive” to adherents of the Hindu religion.
Ironically, one of the first instances of the phrase “holy cow” was printed in 1905 in a sports humor column in the Minneapolis Journal where a supposed dairy farmer wrote a letter to the editor complaining about the use of the phrase.
Holy cow, a saying that was popularized in the early 20th century by American baseball culture, was seen as a “vain use of the name of the milk producer,” according to the satirical letter.