WASHINGTON — A standard of identity for French dressing, which dates back more than seven decades, is no more. The US Food and Drug Administration on Jan. 12 revoked the standard of identity in response to a citizen petition from the Atlanta-based Association for Dressings and Sauces.

“We conclude that this standard no longer promotes honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers,” the FDA said in the Jan. 13 issue of the Federal Register. “Revocation of the standard of identity for French dressing will provide greater flexibility in the product’s manufacture, consistent with comparable, non-standardized foods available in the marketplace.”

The FDA reviewed supermarket scanner data for 2018 and found 227 distinct pourable products sold as French dressing that were manufactured by 53 companies. Revoking the standard of identity does not require any of the companies to change their manufacturing practices.

Standards of identity impose requirements related to the content and production of certain foods. The FDA established a standard of identity for French dressing in the Aug. 12, 1950, issue of the Federal Register, characterizing it as containing oil, acidifying ingredients and seasoning ingredients. It allowed additional safe and suitable ingredients.

The Association for Dressings and Sauces submitted its citizen petition early in 1998. It stated the French dressing standard of identity no longer served as a benchmark for other dressings because of the wide variation in composition to meet consumer interests. Instead, the petition claimed that the standard of identity had become marginalized and restricted innovation.

More than 22 years later, on Dec. 21, 2020, the FDA issued a proposed rule in the Federal Register to revoke the standard of identity. The FDA in the Jan. 13, 2022, issue of the Federal Register said French dressing products are manufactured and sold in low-fat varieties that contain less than the minimum amount of vegetable oil (35% by weight) required by the standard of identity.

“In the preamble to the proposed rule, we stated that we were unaware of any evidence that consumers are deceived or misled by the reduction in vegetable oil when these varieties are sold under names including terms such as ‘fat free’ or ‘low-fat’ (85 FR 82980 at 82982),” the FDA said. “By contrast, these varieties appear to accommodate consumer preferences and dietary restrictions.”