Time to let go of Standards of Identity

by Laurie Gorton
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Hampton Creek Just Cookies and Just Cookie Dough
Are federal Standards of Identity outdated now that consumers are more knowledgeable about what goes into their foods?

Who needs the federal Standards of Identity anymore? These regulatory “recipes” are more than outdated. They actually get in the way of innovation. Now would be a good time to throw them out.

Today, ingredient lists are printed on every food package. Declaration of nutrient content is mandatory. And the internet provides ready references revealing what is in foods. What need does the American consumer have for a set of “recipes” dating back almost 80 years? Times have changed.

Consumers today are so much more knowledgeable about what goes into their foods. There’s good incentive for the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) to act. The federal Standards of Identity were first promulgated as part of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938. This was an era when food companies had great freedom in selection of ingredients. Generic names — milk, bread, ketchup — applied to products of widely different compositions, and the consumer had no way of knowing what was in one company’s product vs. another’s.

Today, labeling law and regulations make it easy for consumers to learn what’s in a food. No longer do they need to seek out and read a Standard of Identity written in government legalese and tucked away in the Code of Federal Regulations. Standards limit the application of creativity to stock products.

Why can’t we add folic acid to whole wheat bread? Why is fortifying a hamburger bun considered misbranding? All involve an intrusion of the standards into the innovation process. Advise F.D.A. to remove these standards as soon as possible. It’s time to let go.

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