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Yogurt Should Contain Live and Active Cultures, IDFA Tells FDA

May 04, 2009

In comments filed last week, IDFA supported the Food and Drug Administration's proposal to update the federal standards of identity for yogurt, and requested additional changes, including a requirement that all yogurts contain a minimum level of live and active cultures. This revision would prohibit heat-treated yogurt products that do not contain live and active cultures from being labeled "yogurt."

The proposed rule would replace the three existing standards for yogurt, lowfat yogurt and nonfat yogurt with one new standard. The change, according to IDFA, will give manufacturers more flexibility to use innovative processing methods and food ingredients and to meet evolving consumer preferences.

Overall, IDFA agrees with the proposed rule that all yogurt must have a minimum milkfat content of 3.25 percent and a minimum milk solids not fat content of 8.25 percent before the addition of bulky flavors. Lowfat and nonfat yogurt, which represents 93 percent of the retail market, would need to be fortified with vitamin A to restore nutrients that are lost when the fat is removed.

"The concept of having a single standard for yogurt is consistent with other dairy standards, such as milk, cottage cheese and ice cream," the comments state. "The yogurt industry realizes that this change will cause reformulation and relabeling of some products currently existing in the market."

In a departure from previous comments, IDFA now recommends that all yogurt should be required to 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 product's shelf life.

"IDFA and our members agree that live and active cultures are an essential characteristic of yogurt that consumers expect," the comments state. "Heat-treated yogurt products which do not contain live and active cultures should be prohibited from being labeled 'yogurt' or be labeled with some other descriptive or fanciful name."

IDFA also agrees that minimum tritratable acidity and maximum pH are appropriate acidity measurements for yogurt. 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's comments support the change but ask FDA to lower the level to 0.6 percent. This would produce yogurt that is less tart and allow the products to be formulated with fewer additional sweeteners and calories.

Recognizing that the new standard will require processors to make label changes, discard obsolete packaging and install new equipment, IDFA asked FDA to allow at least two years for full implementation of the rule.

For more information, members may contact Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs, at or 202-220-3543.


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