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The FDA Will Stop Regulating a Popular Salad Dressing, Says New Report

The agency says it's seeking to revoke the standards of the beloved condiment.
healthy colorful salad

The FDA wants to stop regulating one of the most classic yet seemingly underrated salad dressings you can find at the grocery store: French dressing.

After decades of revising the rules that dictate the thick and tangy dressing's identity, the federal agency announced on Friday that it would revoke the standards of identity for the condiment. At the request of the Association for Dressings & Sauces (yes, that's a real thing), the FDA is essentially erasing the mandated list of ingredients that have to be included in French dressing. (Related: 8 Grocery Items That May Soon Be in Short Supply.)

"The standard does not appear necessary to ensure that the product meets consumer expectations," the agency said in a statement. "The FDA has tentatively concluded that it is no longer necessary to promote honest and fair dealing in the interest of consumers and may limit flexibility for innovation."

The base of French dressing—which isn't French at all, but an American staple—must be made with vinegar, oil, and lemon or lime, before other ingredients like tomato paste and paprika can be added for flavor, according to FDA's standards. It also has to contain 35% vegetable oil.

The agency said it was re-evaluating its former rulings of French dressing as part of its Nutrition Innovation Strategy, intended to "modernize food standards to maintain the basic nature and nutritional integrity of products while allowing industry flexibility for innovation to produce more healthful foods."

However, The New York Times interviewed Marion Nestle, a professor emerita of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, who explained what is likely the motivation behind the administration's abrupt change.

"They want to do it because they want less fat than what's in the standard of identity, and they want to put more junk in it," she said. "And their argument is everybody knows what these things are, and everybody knows what they're buying." (Related: FDA Under Fire For Not Regulating Thousands of Chemicals in Your Food.)

Now, you're likely wondering how this change will affect you. The answer? There's a strong likelihood you won't even notice the difference in your French dressing's flavor, even if its nutrition panel deteriorates.

As Clare Gordon Bettencourt, a Ph.D. candidate in food history at the University of California, Irvine, said to NYT, "I don't know that it will change the shopping experience exponentially because so few consumers know about the standards to begin with and use them as a way to evaluate food choice."

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Cheyenne Buckingham
Cheyenne Buckingham is the news editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and drink coverage, and breaking down the science behind the latest health studies and information. Read more