What’s in French dressing? Starting next month, the FDA doesn’t have a say.

Salad with lettuce, cucumber, eggs, peppers, tomatoes, and French dressing
The FDA will no longer regulate ingredients in French salad dressing. Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • The FDA will stop regulating the ingredients in French salad dressing. 
  • The change stems partly from a petition filed by the Association for Dressing and Sauces.
  • The FDA said it will modernize food standards, allowing for “innovation to produce more healthful foods.”

The US government will no longer regulate French dressing, allowing companies to change up ingredients and appeal to health-conscious consumers.

Starting February 14, the Food and Drug Administration will revoke the standardization of French salad dressing, a new ruling from the agency said.  

The change stems in part from a citizen petition filed by the Association for Dressing and Sauces, a condiment manufacturing interest group representing corporations like Hidden Valley, Meyer’s, Kroger, and Ken’s.

The petition filed by the ADS pointed to “a proliferation of nonstandardized pourable dressings for salads with respect to flavors (Italian, Ranch, cheese, fruit, peppercorn, varied vinegars, and other flavoring concepts) and composition (including a wide range of reduced fat, “light,” and fat-free dressings),” according to the FDA ruling issued on January 13

The ADS previously told The New York Times in 2020 the FDA signaled regulation wasn’t necessary to promote honesty and fair dealing in the interest of the consumer, and could inadvertently stymie salad dressing innovation.

Until now, the FDA has required foods labeled French dressing to contain at least 35% of vegetable oil, plus vinegar diluted with water. Wish-Bone, for example, makes its French dressing using primarily soybean oil, water, sugar, vinegar, tomato paste, and apple cider vinegar.

Though salad dressing sales have been flat as of 2018, refrigerated options — which tend to use fresher ingredients — saw growth while shelf stable products decreased, according to IRI data reviewed by Produce Business. Nutritionists, like those at Mayo Clinic, have told consumers to avoid creamy dressings high in fat.

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The regulator earlier said it will continue to modernize food standards to allow for “innovation to produce more healthful foods.” The FDA will continue to protect consumers from the misbranding of products like bread, jams, juices, and some chocolates.

Despite its name, Americans created French dressing and Kraft Heinz first marketed the product in the 1920s. In the UK, French dressing is a synonym for vinaigrette, which was created in France, per Insider’s Marilyn La Juenesse.

Association for Dressing and Sauces was not immediately available for comment.