Starting in 2024, U.S. consumers are going to start seeing new formulations of yogurt on supermarket shelves. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released an amended standard of identity for yogurt as part of its Nutrition Innovation Strategy. According to the FDA, the new, modernized standard of identity for yogurt allows for greater innovation and technical advances in yogurt production while maintaining yogurt's basic nature and essential characteristics.

The final yogurt standard of identity:

  • Requires yogurt contain a minimum of 3.25 percent milkfat, a minimum of 8.25 percent milk solids not fat, and a minimum of 0.7 percent titratable acidity expressed as lactic acid or maximum pH of 4.6, before the addition of bulky flavoring ingredients.
  • Expands the allowable ingredients in yogurt to include safe and suitable milk-derived ingredients under certain conditions and additional sweeteners. Also, the final rule allows the use of reconstituted dairy ingredients, which is a concentrated or dry form of milk to which water is added to reconstitute the material to fluid form.
  • Allows yogurt containing a minimum of 107 colony forming units per gram (CFU/g) of live and active cultures at the time of manufacture with a reasonable expectation of 106 CFU/g throughout the manufacturer's assigned shelf life of the food to include the statement "contains live and active cultures" on the label. Whereas, yogurt treated to inactivate viable microorganisms must include the statement "does not contain live and active cultures" on the label.
  • Continues to allow food manufacturers to fortify yogurt, such as by adding vitamins A and D, so long as the product meets FDA's fortification policy.
  • Permits various styles or textures of yogurt, such as Greek yogurt, as long as the products meet the requirements in the standard of identity.

The FDA's rule also revokes the standards of identity for lowfat yogurt and nonfat yogurt. Currently, the FDA has three separate standards of identity for yogurt, lowfat yogurt, and nonfat yogurt. Lowfat and nonfat yogurts will now be covered under the general definition and standard of identity for yogurt and low fat and non-fat yogurts would be labeled in accordance with the nutrient content claim requirements outlined in 21 C.F.R. Part 101, Subpart D.

Because the dairy standards of identity are subject to formal rulemaking procedures, FDA has requested whether any interested party objected to any specific provision of the changes. If any objections are filed, FDA must hold a hearing on the particular provision that is specified in the objection. Objections and a request for a hearing must be filed with FDA by July 12, 2021.

The yogurt standard of identity was updated as part of the FDA's Nutrition Innovation Strategy, which seeks to improve nutrition in order to reduce the burden of chronic and preventable disease. Under the Nutrition Innovation Strategy, modernizing food standards of identity is one of the key activities the FDA is using to improve public health. Standards of identity establish requirements related to the content and production of certain food products. By modernizing standards of identity, the FDA hopes to improve health and allow innovation while preserving the essential characteristics of foods.

The standard of identity for yogurt was amended partially in response to a citizen petition submitted by the National Yogurt Association, which is now part of the International Dairy Foods Association. The citizen petition was submitted in February 2000 and requested that the FDA amend the standard of identity for yogurt and revoke the standards of identity for lowfat yogurt and nonfat yogurt. The FDA issued a proposed rule in January 2009.

If no objection is timely filed, the deadline for yogurt manufacturers to comply with this new standard of identity is January 1, 2024.

Written with the assistance of Colleen Seidel, a summer associate in the Husch Blackwell, LLP, Washington, DC office.

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