'Driving while ice creamed?' Lawmakers unsure of alcohol in treat

Concerns about adolescents dipping their spoons into rum-infused Blitzed Berry ice cream and other boozy concoctions temporarily derailed legislation Thursday at the State Capitol.

House Bill 471 aims to bring alcohol-laced frozen treats to Louisiana grocers’ freezers. The state Attorney General’s Office concluded last year that legislators needed to tweak state law before the specialty ice cream can be sold in Louisiana.

The problem that state Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe, wants to fix is that the ice cream needs a specific exception in the law in order to be sold in Louisiana. Members of the House Judiciary Committee want an even bigger fix.

“I’m not saying that we should regulate it. I just want to make that sure we’re not allowing a loophole in the law where minors have availability to buy high alcoholic-content products,” state Rep. Ray Garofalo said.

Another legislator, state Rep. Rob Shadoin, also worried about young people — as well as ice cream lovers like himself — buying a frozen concoction with an alcohol content. The ice cream would be sold in grocery stores and convenience stores.

“DWI can now mean driving while ice creamed,” said Shadoin, R-Ruston.

Hunter agreed to yank the bill in order to add an age-verification requirement for alcohol-infused ice cream purchases. “We can get this worked out,” he told the committee.

Last year, New York-based Mercer’s Dairy sought permission to sell cherry merlot, peach white zinfandel, red raspberry chardonnay and other alcohol-laced ice cream flavors in Louisiana. The company quickly ran into a conundrum: Grocery stores can stock their shelves with rum-laced fruitcake at Christmas time, but wine-flavored ice cream is off-limits for the Fourth of July crowds.

The ice cream — like bonbons and fruitcake — is an adulterated food. Adulterated foods generally are prohibited in Louisiana. Bonbons and fruitcake scored exemptions in the law.

Hunter told legislators Thursday that he wanted to fix the discrepancy in the law. At his side were Chris Young, a lobbyist for Louisiana’s Beer Industry League, and Steve Duke, a lobbyist for California-headquartered Buzz Bar.

Several companies sell alcohol-infused ice cream. Buzz Bar makes ice cream bars infused with whiskey, Irish cream liqueur, lemon vodka, bourbon, run and cognac. Product names include the Drunken Cookie and Bourbon St. Chocolate.

Duke, a lobbyist for Buzz Bar, assured committee members that consumers would get a brain freeze or a sugar high before they got tipsy from scarfing down a whiskey-infused ice cream bar.

“For a fat guy, if I start trying to get drunk, it ain’t going to happen. I’ll have more of a diabetes problem,” he said.

The alcohol content on Buzz Bar’s ice cream ranges from .65 percent for its coffee ice cream to 2.81 percent for Blitzed Berry, strawberry ice cream infused with rum. Wine itself tends to have 12 to 15 percent alcohol content.

Garofalo, R-Meraux, expressed concerns about a 12-year-old buying alcohol-infused ice cream. Hunter’s bill simply authorizes the sale of ice cream as an alcoholic beverage without making any mention of being a certain age to buy it.

“That’s where I’m concerned,” Garofalo said.

Duke said Buzz Bar does not advocate that children consume its products.

State Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, noted that other alcoholic products besides beer and liquor are sold in grocery stores. “Do we ID to buy Listerine?” he asked.

Young said he would have to check the back of a Listerine bottle but predicted the alcohol content is too low to trigger regulation.

Hunter promised to return to the committee once he works out the bill’s kinks.

“The next meeting is April 10,” the committee’s chairman, Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans, told him.