FDA Ends Regulation Of “French Dressing”

Morrison & Foerster LLP - Class Dismissed

Last week the FDA announced that it would lift regulations controlling what can be called “French dressing.”  The regulations—which had been in place since 1950—previously required that a product contain 35% vegetable oil and vinegar, lemon, or lime juice to be marketed as “French dressing.”  Not anymore.

The change comes in response to a 1998 petition that was filed by the Association of Dressings and Sauces (ADS), which has spent several decades petitioning the FDA to deregulate the product.  ADS argued, in part, that the regulations stifled innovation and competition, limiting a company’s ability to offer customers a low-fat or fat-free version of the dressing.

The FDA seems to have agreed, concluding that “the standard of identity for French dressing no longer promotes honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers and revoking the standard could provide greater flexibility in the product’s manufacture, consistent with comparable, non-standardized foods available in the marketplace.”[1]  The FDA further found the need for the regulations on French dressing obsolete, as no other dressing is controlled by such stringent regulations.

This appears to be the FDA’s most specific food deregulation since its consideration of its rules over frozen cherry pies in December 2020.[2]  Since 1977, frozen cherry pies have been required to be at least 25% cherries by weight, with no more than 15% of the cherries being blemished.  Following a petition from the American Bakers Association (ABA), the FDA determined “[t]he standards do not appear necessary to ensure that these products meet consumer expectations,” and tentatively concluded that they are no longer necessary.[3]

As the FDA continues to take a fresh look at other existing standards of identity in light of marketing trends and the latest nutritional science, more changes can be expected.  These deregulations seek to make manufacturing easier and more cost-effective, allowing for innovation and increasing customer options.  Stay tuned to see what regulations the FDA decides to tackle next, and how this will play out for businesses and consumers.

[1] https://public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2022-00494.pdf.

[2] https://www.fda.gov/food/cfsan-constituent-updates/fda-proposes-revoke-standard-identity-frozen-cherry-pie.

[3] Id.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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