Standards of identity for frozen cherry pie and French dressing are on the way out

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Dive Brief:

  • The FDA plans to begin revoking long-established standards of identity requirements for frozen cherry pie and French dressing, according to the Associated Press. The plan was included in the Trump administration’s deregulation agenda released last year.
  • FDA rules say frozen cherry pies must contain 25% washed and drained cherries by weight, and no more than 15% of the cherries can be blemished by scab, hail injury, discoloration, scar tissue or other abnormality. The agency noted it is the only fruit pie on the market for which it maintains a standard of identity regulation, and removing it would “provide food manufacturers with greater flexibility in the production of frozen cherry pie products.”
  • For French dressing, the FDA requires no less than 35% by weight of vegetable oil and no more than 25% by weight of citric or malic acid. The Association for Dressings and Sauces reported other dressings are not subject to standards of identity. The FDA had intended to post a proposal on revoking the frozen cherry pie standard April 18 and the French dressing one May 3, but the agency said the timing could shift, according to AP.

Dive Insight:

French dressing and frozen cherry pie could be the start of more regulatory changes. Standards of identity for certain products were established by the 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which the FDA said mandated legally enforceable food standards, formally authorized factory inspections and added injunctions to the agency’s enforcement tools. The purpose of these standards is “to promote honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers,” the agency said.

Recent public attention has focused on standards of identity for dairy and meat products such as beef, although former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told Food Business News last summer the agency has nearly 300 separate standards included in its regulations. This past fall, he called these two initial rulemaking efforts a “down payment” on a systematic effort within the agency to modernize current standards of identity for foods.

There are many food products with standard of identity regulations, including jams, chocolate, flour, cereals, tomato products, macaroni products, baked goods, milk, cheese, butter, dressings, canned fruits, juices, shellfish, canned tuna, eggs, margarine and canned vegetables.

Besides making the regulatory “down payment” Gottlieb described, the FDA may want to address more easily understandable and less controversial standards — like frozen cherry pie and French dressing — before tackling the far more contentious ones involving dairy and meat products. The latter two issues have led to legal wrangling as plant-based and cell-grown products emerge in the marketplace and producers of traditional animal-based ones look on with alarm.

Pending changes to the FDA’s frozen cherry pie requirements don’t appear to be causing consternation, however. The AP reported that a spokeswoman for the American Bakers Association indicated she wouldn’t be sad to see them gone and that it isn’t a big deal for the industry.

Since Gottlieb left the agency on April 5, and President Trump has not yet appointed a new FDA commissioner, it’s hard to tell when the overall modernizing of standards of identity will be completed. Meanwhile, the FDA seems to be taking some of the easier deregulation steps and may keep doing so until it has new leadership to help it move forward on the tougher ones.

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