‘After 40 years... yogurt makers are back to where we started’: US dairy industry hits out as FDA issues a stay on yogurt rules

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

US FDA delays yogurt rules, but industry critical of uncertainty created / Pic: GettyImages-jenifoto
US FDA delays yogurt rules, but industry critical of uncertainty created / Pic: GettyImages-jenifoto

Related tags Yogurt IDFA Fda

The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) has criticised the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA's) handling of plans to ‘modernize’ the yogurt standard of identity.

Last summer, IDFA outlined concerns it has over details of the FDA’s proposal to amend the standard definition of yogurt in the market.

Overall, the dairy sector is supportive of such a move. However, IDFA raised a number of objections to the specifics contained in the FDA docket, including requisite titratable acidity content and pH levels that the organisation said were ‘not practical’ and didn’t reflect consumer preferences; milk fat content requirements that do not ‘protect the basic nature and essential characteristics of yogurt’; and the exclusion of ‘safe and suitable non-nutritive sweeteners’.

“We are concerned that the revised standard is inconsistent with current manufacturing processes and the products consumers both desire and with which they are familiar,”​ IDFA argued. “In light of our longstanding desire for this final rule, we do not raise these objections lightly. It is imperative, however, that the standard be modern, flexible, enable manufacturers to meet consumer demands, and reflect the basic nature of yogurt.”

The IDFA has requested a hearing on the final rule to amend and modernize the standard of identity for yogurt. And last week it got its response when FDA issued a notice of stay for certain provisions in the final rule - without airing the industry's concerns or reaching a final decision on next steps. 

Representing US dairy manufacturers, IDFA said the stay was welcome but insisted it wants to see the amendment to yogurt standards updated.

40 years later... we're still waiting for yogurt rules

“Yogurt makers have been waiting 40 years for the FDA to update and modernize the yogurt standard of identity. Today, the FDA issued a notice telling us to keep waiting — and threw in a whole lot of uncertainty, to boot,”​ responded IDFA President and CEO Michael Dykes.

“Last July, IDFA forcefully objected to the FDA’s final rule to amend and modernize the standard of identity for yogurt released in June. In December, IDFA sent a letter to Dr. Woodcock, Acting Commissioner for FDA, reiterating our request for a hearing with FDA to resolve the industry’s objections, along with providing manufacturers sufficient time for compliance. Today, after eight months of waiting, FDA issued a notice staying certain provisions of the yogurt standard of identity final rule,”​ he reflected.

While IDFA was able to leverage formal rulemaking procedures available to the dairy industry to object and, ultimately, prompt a stay of ‘certain provisions that are detrimental to our industry’ Dykes warned that without this lever ‘an impractical final rule would have gone into effect, damaging yogurt makers, throwing retail establishments into confusion, and limiting choice for consumers’. "IDFA remains deeply disappointed in the FDA process that led to the yogurt SOI final rule,"​ the dairy expert reflected. 

“While a stay is helpful at this stage, IDFA’s efforts to reform the yogurt SOI will continue into an inexplicable fifth decade. After 40 years since FDA first issued standards for yogurt, IDFA and our yogurt members are back to where we started several decades ago, beseeching the FDA to work with yogurt makers to make common-sense updates to a category that has been waiting more than four decades for modernization. Without standards that have been modernized, manufacturers are unable to meet consumer demands for innovative and nutritious yogurt products. With many significant provisions stayed, IDFA will continue to work on the yogurt SOI with an aim to ensure FDA continues to move forward in responding appropriately to IDFA’s objections in a timely manner.”

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