WebMD News Brief

After 70 Years, FDA Drops Regulations on French Dressing

photo of french dressing

Jan. 14, 2022 -- That bottle of French dressing you buy at the supermarket will be changing soon. You can bet the ranch on it.

That’s because the FDA is dropping the standards it has used since 1950 to define French salad dressing.

The FDA imposes a “standard of identity” on certain food products to “maintain the basic nature and essential characteristics of products,” the agency said in a news release announcing the change.

The Federal Register has said French dressing should contain at least 35% vegetable oil, plus “acidifying ingredients” such as vinegar and citric acid. Tomato paste and ketchup are “sometimes” used but aren’t required.

In 1998, the Association of Dressings and Sauces, an industry group, petitioned the government to drop the French dressing standards. The group argued that the rise in other pourable dressings, such as ranch, meant that French dressing no longer was a “benchmark” and that the FDA standard stifled innovation and didn’t meet consumer expectations, according to a synopsis of the petition.

The FDA said the association proved the standard is outdated.

“The standard of identity for French dressing characterized it as containing oil, acidifying and seasoning ingredients, and allowed additional safe and suitable ingredients,” the FDA said. “However, based on information submitted to the FDA, consumers appear to expect French dressing to have certain characteristics not required by the standard, such as containing tomatoes or tomato-derived ingredients.”

Several news outlets made light of the rule change

“The US government’s tyrannical reign over a classic condiment is finally ending,” The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. said.

The sweet-tasting, orange-red dressing isn’t nearly as popular as it was decades ago. According to The New York Times, an Association of Dressings and Sauces survey in 2017 found that 40% of American respondents listed ranch as their favorite dressing, followed by Italian at 10%.

The FDA first proposed revoking the standard in December 2020. The revocation was officially posted Thursday in the Federal Register and takes effect in 30 days.

WebMD Health News Brief

Sources

FDA: “FDA Revokes the Standard of Identity for French Dressing.”

Federal Register.

Association of Salads and Dressings.

The Guardian:Libération! Long-derided French dressing freed from strict US rules.”

The New York Times: “Ranch Nation.”

Federal Register: “French Dressing; Proposed Revocation of a Standard of Identity.”

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