FDA Deregulates This Salad Topping After 70 Years

Agency is revoking 'standard of identity' for French dressing, opening up ingredient possibilities
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2022 9:40 AM CST
FDA Deregulates This Salad Topping After 70 Years
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/LeszekCzerwonka)

For nearly a quarter century, a trade group representing mayo, condiment, and salad dressing makers has been trying to get the Food and Drug Administration to back off a rule that holds one dressing in particular to what critics have said are overly strict standards. Now, it's "liberation" for French dressing, per the Guardian, which reports that "the US government's tyrannical reign over a classic condiment is over." The FDA on Wednesday announced it has deregulated the salad topping, revoking the agency's strict "standard of identity" for the dressing that has kept its ingredients and manufacture under tight control, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Since the 1950 standard was put in place by the FDA—along with standards for mayonnaise and "salad dressing"—French dressing in the US has had to adhere to a specific protocol: notably, that it contain vinegar and lemon or lime juice, as well as be made up of at least 35% vegetable oil. It may also be supplemented with salt, tomato paste, and other "harmless seasoning or flavoring," though it's not required, per the Guardian. That means that "manufacturers who are making anything they call French dressing had to follow that exact prescription," Diana Winters of UCLA's Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy tells the outlet.

Then, in 1998, the Association for Dressings and Sauces pushed back, asking for the rule to be pulled, as other salad dressings, such as ranch and Italian, aren't under the same level of restrictions. "The French dressing standard simply restricts innovation," the trade group said in a Wednesday statement, per the Journal. The FDA apparently (and finally) agreed this week, noting that its revocation will offer "greater flexibility in the product's manufacture, consistent with comparable, nonstandardized foods available in the marketplace," according to a filing to the Federal Register published Thursday, per the Washington Post.

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This means now that manufacturers of French dressing can experiment a bit more with their recipes and not have to worry about getting dinged due to "French dressing" appearing on their labels. While the revocation is making headlines, equally under scrutiny is the time it took for the FDA to get moving on this. "It shows ... the workings of the FDA—that its wheels are turning, but extraordinarily slowly and in a way that is somewhat inexplicable," Winters tells the Journal. The agency itself hasn't yet offered an explanation for why it took decades to make this move. The rule goes into effect on Feb. 14, so you can rest assured during Valentine's Day dinner that any French dressing poured on your greens will be officially deregulated. (More condiment stories.)

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