French Dressing No More: FDA to Revoke its Standard of Identity

On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced plans to revoke the standard of identity for French dressing, finding that the ingredient specifications “no longer promote[] honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers.” The action partly responds to a citizen petition submitted by the Association for Dressings and Sauces (ADS) advocating for the change. The final rule will become effective in February.

The FDA explains that a provision of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) directs the secretary to “issue regulations fixing and establishing for any food a reasonable definition and standard of identity, quality, or fill of container,” when doing so will “protect consumers against economic adulteration and reflect consumers’ expectations about food.”

The FDA established a standard of identity for French dressing on August 12, 1950 and made several alterations to the list of allowed ingredients over time. In their petition, the ADS stated that there has been a surge of new non-standardized pourable salad dressings with flavors ranging from Italian to cheese, fruit, and peppercorn and with compositions ranging in fat content and sources.

“The French dressing standard of identity, according to the petition, no longer serves as a benchmark for other dressings because of the wide variation in composition to meet consumer interests,” the FDA reported. By contrast, ADS claimed that the standard of identity has become marginalized and restricts innovation.

The FDA reviewed more than 20 comments submitted by a trade association, a business association, and individuals, who appeared to have written in as part of a university assignment. “In general, most comments supported the revocation of the French dressing standard of identity; their reasons supporting the revocation ranged from promoting innovation, believing that consumers are not misled, or stating that the standard of identity was obsolete,” the agency said.

As a result, the FDA will revoke the standard, purportedly enabling greater product manufacturing flexibility that is consistent with other comparable, non-standardized foods.