After more than 70 years, the federal government has decided that French dressing no longer needs to be regulated.
"When the standard of identity was established in 1950, French dressing was one of three types of dressings we identified," the Food and Drug Administration said in the final rule posted in the Federal Register on Thursday. The other two were mayonnaise and just "salad dressing."
French dressing is the only pourable dressing required to adhere to standards that require it to contain oil, acidifying ingredients and seasoning. Other foods, including bread, jam and juices, have their own standards of identity.
When it comes to French dressing, many consumers expect red or red-orange color and tomato or tomato-derived elements — none of which are required under the standards.
The Association for Dressing and Sauces, an industry group founded in 1926, petitioned for the standards to be revoked in 1998, citing the explosion in varieties of salad dressings available — among them ranch, cheese, peppercorn and Italian. French dressing is no longer a baseline for other dressings and has become "marginalized," the association said.
In December 2020, the FDA proposed revoking the standard for French dressing in the name of "flexibility" and "innovation." French dressing's standard of identity was not honest or fair, either, according to the FDA's final rule.
"There are a wide variety of French-style dressings on the market, and these will continue to be available based on consumer demand," the industry association wrote in a public comment on the revocation of the standards last spring.
"Today, the @US_FDA revoked the standard of identity for #frenchdressing because it is ... gasp ... outdated," the Resnick Center for Food Law and Policy at UCLA tweeted.
The final rule, which will go into effect Feb. 14, won't require makers to change their manufacturing practices, the FDA said.
A version of this story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.