FDA deregulates French dressing after decades-long battle

Shelves of salad dressings for sale in Publix Grocery Store. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The U. S. Food and Drug Administration is ending decades of regulating just what constitutes French dressing.

It comes after a nearly 24-year battle by the Association for Dressings and Sauces.

The trade group had argued that the limited definition of what could go into a product called French Dressing blocked innovation and more flexibility of products on the market to meet current consumer tastes.

The FDA established a standard of identity for French dressing on Aug. 12, 1950.  The standard was amended several times in the 1960s and 1970s.

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Standards of identity impose requirements related to the content and production of certain food products.  For French dressing the standard was that it needed to contain oil, acidifying, and seasoning ingredients, and allowed additional safe and suitable ingredients.

The Association for Dressings and Sauces petitioned for the deregulation on Jan. 13, 1998.

The group said that consumers expect French dressing to have certain characteristics not covered by the standard, such as containing tomatoes or tomato-derived ingredients and didn't cover reduced-fat and fat-free variations of the salad dressing.

The FDA admitted that it was unaware of any evidence that consumers are deceived or misled by the reduction in vegetable oil in various types of French dressing.

A 2018 review of supermarket data showed 227 distinct products sold as French dressing.

The FDA says it continues to modernize food standards to maintain the basic nature and essential characteristics of products while allowing industry flexibility for innovation to produce more healthful foods and meet consumer expectations.