After keeping a tight grip on French dressing’s key ingredients since 1950, the Food and Drug Administration has announced that it will no longer regulate it.
On Wednesday, the US agency announced that it would relax guidelines that required manufacturers to sell a product containing 35% vegetable oil if it wanted to market it as “French dressing.”
French dressing was also required to contain vinegar, lemon or lime juice, or both. Other ingredients such as salt, tomato paste, and spices were allowed but not required.
According to the FDA, the strict threshold “no longer promotes honesty and fair dealing” for the benefit of consumers.
The FDA hopes that by eliminating the standard, it will “provide greater flexibility in the product’s manufacture, consistent with comparable, nonstandardized foods available in the marketplace.”
The action was taken in response to a petition filed by the Association of Dressings and Sauces in 1998. It’s unclear why the FDA waited so long to respond to the group’s petition.
For decades, the FDA has regulated French dressing and a variety of other foods.
The trade group claimed that the FDA’s strict guidelines stifled innovation and left consumers with few market options.
Customers looking for low-fat or fat-free versions of the condiment were out of luck, according to the ADS, because those products could not legally be marketed as “French dressing.”
The group also questioned why French dressing was scrutinized while most other dressings were not.
ADS issued a statement in which it stated that it “supports” the FDA’s decision.
“Since the standard was adopted, there has been a proliferation of a wide variety of non-standardized pourable salad dressings with different flavours (e.g., Italian, Blue cheese, Vinaigrette, Ranch, Caesar) and composition (including reduced fat, “light,” and fat-free dressings,” according to the trade group in a statement.
“Because of the variation in composition to meet changing consumer needs, the French dressing standard does not serve as a benchmark for these pourable salad dressings.” As a result, the French dressing standard stifles creativity.”
Now that the guidelines have been lifted, producers of French dressing can add or subtract vegetable oil or tomato paste as long as it is safe for consumers.
According to American tastes, the decision on French dressing is unlikely to have a significant impact on sales. Ranch dressing was voted the most popular condiment in a 2017 ADS poll. The Italian dressing was the second most popular.
To ensure quality, the federal government established rules governing the marketing of foods such as milk and cottage cheese decades ago.
According to its website, the FDA is rethinking its oversight as part of its Nutrition Innovation Strategy, which was enacted in 2018 to “take a fresh look at what can be done to reduce preventable death and disease related to poor nutrition.”
Other foods regulated by the FDA include mayonnaise and vanilla extract. According to the FDA, mayonnaise must contain at least 65 percent vegetable oil by weight. The only vanilla extract containing at least 35% ethyl alcohol by volume could be sold.
The FDA proposed revoking guidelines governing the classification of frozen cherry pies during the Trump administration.
The rules for frozen cherry pies, which have been in place for decades, state that they must contain at least 25% cherries by weight, with no more than 15% of the cherries being blemished.