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The FDA Has Loosened Its Draconian Grasp on Frozen Cherry Pie

Deregulation fever has finally arrived in the fruit dessert section of the grocery store

cherry pie
You wish your frozen cherry pie looked this good.
Alena Haurylik/Shutterstock

If you’ve enjoyed a store-bought frozen cherry pie in the United States between now and 1977, a few things — beyond death and taxes — were guaranteed: Official standards set by the Food and Drug Administration requires that the pie be at least 25 percent cherries, as measured by weight; and the cherries must be largely unblemished, with no more than 15 percent marred by scabs, discolorations, scars, or other abnormalities.

But in a world of uncertainty, even that is small comfort is being taken away from us. The FDA, following through on recently resigned Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s 2018 promise to “de-regulate frozen cherry pie,” will begin the process of revoking the longstanding standards of identity defining what makes a frozen — mind you, not baked and then frozen — cherry pie in the U.S., per emails viewed by the Associated Press.

The move is just one tiny part of the Trump administration’s larger deregulation agenda, which tackles everything from asylum seeker restrictions to hog carcass cleaning rules. “This is a down payment on a comprehensive effort to modernize food standards to reduce regulatory burden and remove old-fashioned barriers to innovation,” Gottlieb wrote about the FDA’s planned regulatory work in October.

But do not fret over the future of your frozen cherry pie. As far as deregulation goes, this particular to-do item is tied to an outdated demand that even the FDA can’t explain: “We likely issued the one standard because we were petitioned to,” an FDA spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal back in 2006. (Other fruit pies aren’t governed by similar standards.)

The American Bakers Association has been asking the FDA to ax the standards since at least 1997 and last week told the AP that the revocation likely wouldn’t make a huge difference for the industry, as “members are producing cherry pies with more than enough cherries.” Don’t hurt ’em with that flex, ABA!

Next up on the FDA’s deregulation agenda? The similarly singled-out French dressing, defined as “the separable liquid food or the emulsified viscous fluid food prepared from vegetable oil(s) and one or both of the acidifying ingredients specified.” Yum! The more contentious battle over the definition of “milk” (cow’s vs. soy vs. rice vs. almond, etc.) has only just begun — so consider the discussion surrounding frozen cherry pie as a mere foil-wrapped warm-up.

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