U.S – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reshaped the landscape of yogurt production with its recent 2023 final order.

The order, a response to objections raised by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and Chobani, Inc., marks a significant shift in the standards of identity for yogurt, revoking the previous norms for lowfat and nonfat yogurt while amending the broader definition for yogurt products.

The journey began with the 2021 final rule, which sought to eliminate the standards for lowfat and nonfat yogurt while modifying the standard of identity for yogurt. However, objections from industry giants IDFA and Chobani triggered a series of responses from the FDA.

In a nuanced move, the FDA, in its 2022 final rule, addressed objections and revised certain provisions of the 2021 final rule.

The agency also lifted the stay of action for provisions where hearings were denied. The acidity requirement of yogurt, a point of contention, found its resolution in the 2023 final order, responding to IDFA’s objections and introducing modifications aligning the rule with the 2007 Grade “A” Pasteurized Milk Ordinance.

With the revocation of standards for lowfat and nonfat yogurt, these products now fall under the broader definition outlined in 21 CFR 130.10, specifically for foods deviating from other standardized foods due to compliance with a nutrient content claim.

Yogurt, under 21 CFR 131.200, now has updated requirements, reflecting a shift in the industry’s approach.

Key requirements for yogurt manufacturers

Yogurt, as defined by the FDA, is produced by culturing basic dairy ingredients with a characterizing bacterial culture.

The minimum requirements include 3.25% milkfat, 8.25% milk solids not fat, and a pH of 4.6 or lower within 24 hours after filling.

Bacterial cultures, specifically Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, must be used.

Sweeteners and nutrient content claims

The FDA clarifies that all safe and suitable sweeteners, including nonnutritive sweeteners, are permissible in yogurt.

However, the use of nonnutritive sweeteners for sugar or calorie reduction does not automatically grant the right to label yogurt with nutrient content claims.

Striking a balance, the FDA emphasizes that nutrient content claims can only be made when products comply with specified reduction levels.

Vitamins and labeling

For yogurts fortified with vitamins A or D, labels must specify the added amounts based on percentages of Daily Value per Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC).

Additionally, if a nutritive carbohydrate sweetener is added without a characterizing flavor, the term “sweetened” must be included in the label.

Tailored statements for milkfat content

If a yogurt product contains less than 3.25% milkfat but more than 2.44%, the statement of identity must combine the word “yogurt” and the milkfat content, rounded to the nearest half percent.

This information should be presented in letters not less than half the height of the “yogurt” statement and at least one-eighth of an inch in height.

The FDA’s recent regulatory adjustments not only redefine the standards for yogurt but also pave the way for innovation in the industry.

As yogurt manufacturers adapt to the new guidelines, consumer expectations and preferences may witness a transformation.

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