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Soft serve and frozen yoghurt

Soft serve is a frozen dairy product produced by freezing a heat-treated mixture of milk, cream, milk solids, sugars, stabilisers, emulsifiers and flavourings. Soft serve differs from hard ice cream in that the final product is formed at retail, made from a powdered or liquid premix.

Frozen yoghurt is a frozen dessert that can also be made in a similar way in a soft serve machine and is commonly used as an ingredient in smoothies and protein shakes.

A survey of soft serve and frozen yoghurt desserts in NSW was conducted to:

  • assess the microbiological quality of soft serve and frozen yoghurt sold in NSW
  • gather information on the common handling practices in retail businesses that sell these products (eg cleaning and sanitation practices of the dispensing machines)
  • assist local council officers in providing food safety education and advice to retailers that sells these products.


The survey showed that 88.2% of samples were classified as good or acceptable when compared with the NSW Food Authority’s Microbiological quality guide for ready-to-eat foods. The remainder were deemed unsatisfactory due to an elevated standard plate count (SPC). None of the samples tested positive for E. coli, Salmonella or Listeria monocytogenes.

The survey did however highlight the need for improvement in relation to the cleaning and sanitation of dispensing machines. Up to 50% of businesses that used sanitiser did not use it appropriately. The Food Authority has published a factsheet on cleaning and sanitising in food businesses that can help businesses address this issue.

Other practices that will assist businesses produce safe frozen dessert products include:

  • prepare premix according to the manufacturer’s instruction and keep it under 5°C at all times. If water is needed, potable water must be used. Equipment should be cleaned and sanitised prior to use
  • maintain the machine temperature at less than 5°C
  • maintain a documented cleaning schedule. This should include all information regarding cleaning of the machine (eg cleaning procedure and cleaning frequency) and should be adhered to at all times by appropriately trained and supervised staff
  • all staff should have awareness of hygiene and safe food handling practices
  • manufacturer’s instructions regarding cleaning and sanitation of soft serve machines should be understood and adhered to by all responsible staff
  • cleaning agents and sanitisers suitable for use in food processing should be used and prepared according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Full results are available in the report below:

Table of contents
Executive summary
- Soft serve
- Frozen yoghurt
- Consumption data
- Previous studies
Materials and methods
- Council participation
- Pilot survey
- First round of sampling
- Second round of sampling
- Method for laboratory analysis
- Method for data analysis
- Food handling questionnaire
- Microbiological results
- Responses to food handling questionnaire
- Follow-up actions
- Appendix 1. Selected surveys on the microbiological quality of soft serve in Australia
- Appendix 2. Food handling questionnaire for businesses that sell soft serve and/or frozen yoghurt