Nearly nine years after receiving a petition to modernize the federal Standards of Identity for yogurt, the Food and Drug Administration last week announced a proposed rule that aims to do just that. The agency recommends establishing one new yogurt standard to replace the three currently separate standards for yogurt, lowfat yogurt and nonfat yogurt.
IDFA had supported this effort to modernize the yogurt standard in comments filed with FDA five years ago when the agency posted an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking.
"IDFA is pleased that FDA has decided to move forward with its proposal to amend the yogurt standards," said Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs. "The existing standards have been outdated for some time, and they require revision to reflect and accommodate new technology for food ingredients and processing methods, as well as consumer preferences."
The original petition requesting an update to the yogurt standards was submitted in 2000 by the National Yogurt Association. Over the years, IDFA has worked with members that manufacture yogurt to gain consensus on proposed amendments to the standards. While agreement on every aspect remained elusive, IDFA's comments in 2004 outlined many areas where the industry supported updating the standards.
In the proposed rule, FDA recommends removing the current ban on the use of reconstituted dairy ingredients, such as whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate, and permitting the use of "safe and suitable" milk-derived ingredients. IDFA and members support these changes, which will allow manufacturers to use new technologies and formulate healthier foods with specific nutritional and health benefits. Using filtered milk with water and lactose removed, for example, would allow manufacturers to lower the sugar content while increasing the product's protein level.
In addition, the proposed rule calls for decreasing the minimum level of tritratable acidity, or level of culture activity, to 0.7 percent, down from 0.9 percent, before the addition of bulky flavors. IDFA members support this change because a lower tritatable acidity level produces yogurt that is less tart, allowing the products to be formulated with fewer additional sweeteners and lower calories.
FDA's proposed rule retains the provision that yogurt may be heat-treated after culturing, provided that the phrase "heat-treated after culturing'' follows the name of the food on the label. In addition, yogurt that is not heat-treated after culturing may contain a minimum level of live and active cultures of 107 colony-forming units per gram (CFU/g) at the time of manufacture with a reasonable expectation of 106 CFU/g through the manufacturer's assigned shelf life of the product. The name of the food may be accompanied by the phrase "contains live and active cultures'' or another appropriate descriptor if the food contains the amount of live and active cultures specified.
IDFA will work with members that manufacture yogurt to develop comments on the specific details of the proposed rule for submission before the March 31, 2009, deadline. For more information or to participate, members are encouraged to contact Frye at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-220-3543.