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Regulating Food

Standards of Identity

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Updated May 02, 2007
From The Food And Drug Administration

Food standards maintain the general quality of a large part of the national food supply and prevent economic fraud, thus protecting both consumers and producers. Without standards, different foods could have the same names or the same foods could have different names. Both situations would be confusing and misleading to consumers and create unfair competition.

Section 401 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act requires that whenever such action will promote honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers, regulations shall be promulgated fixing and establishing for any food, under its common or usual name so far as practicable, a reasonable definition and standard of identity, a reasonable standard of quality, and/or reasonable standards of fill-of-container. However, no definition and standard of identity or standard of quality may be established for fresh or dried fruits, fresh or dried vegetables, or butter, except that definitions and standards of identity may be established for avocados, cantaloupes, citrus fruits, and melons.

Standards of identity define a given food product, its name, and the ingredients that must be used, or may be used, in the manufacture of the food. Standards of quality are minimum standards only.

A food which is represented or purports to be a food for which a standard of identity has been promulgated must comply with the specifications of the standard in every respect.

For example, fill-of-container standards define how full the container must be and how this is measured. FDA standards are based on the assumption that the food is properly prepared from clean, sound materials.

Standards do not usually relate to such factors as deleterious impurities, filth, and decomposition. However, there are exceptions. For example, the standards for whole egg and yolk products and for egg white products require these products to be pasteurized or otherwise treated to destroy all viable Salmonella bacteria.

Some standards for foods set nutritional requirements, such as those for enriched bread, or vitamins A and D that must be added to milk.

Foods named by use of a nutrient content claim and a standardized term. [/br] FDA regulations include a "general standard of identity" (21 CFR 130.10) for modified versions of traditional standardized foods (the standards for traditional foods are contained in 21 CFR 131 through 169). Such modified versions (e.g., "reduced fat" or "reduced calorie" versions of traditional standardized foods) must comply with the provisions of 21 CFR 130.10.

The modified food must:
  1. Comply with the provisions of the standard for the traditional standardized food except for the deviation described by the nutrient content claim.
  2. Not be nutritionally inferior to be traditional standardized food.
  3. Possess performance characteristics, such as physical properties, flavor characteristics, functional properties, and shelf life, that are similar to those of the traditional standardized food, unless the label bears a statement informing the consumer of a significant difference in performance characteristics that materially limits the use of the modified food (e.g., "not recommended for baking").
  4. Contain a significant amount of any mandatory ingredient required to be present in the traditional standardized food.
  5. Contain the same ingredients as permitted in the standard for the traditional standardized food, except that ingredients may be used to improve texture, prevent syneresis, add flavor, extend shelf life, improve appearance, or add sweetness so that the modified food is not inferior in performance characteristics to the traditional standardized food.
Source: Food and Drug Administration

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