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  1. Food Labeling & Nutrition

Standards of Identity for Food

The FDA began establishing Standards of Identity (SOI) in 1939, and since then, the agency has established more than 250 SOIs. Products like milk, milk chocolate, various breads, peanut butter, and ketchup have a SOI. SOIs often describe in detail what a food must contain and what is optional and sometimes describe the amount or proportion of ingredients or components. Many SOIs also prescribe a method of production or formulation.

The FDA is updating its SOI program with the goal of maintaining the basic nature and essential characteristics of standardized foods while permitting flexibility with respect to their composition.


SOIs were first established in 1939 to help address economic adulteration that was occurring in the marketplace. For example, there were products that were represented as jams containing fruit, but the products contained little fruit (e.g., the SOI for fruit preserves and jams requires that products represented as jam contain a minimum amount of fruit).

SOIs were developed to help protect consumers and promote honesty and fair dealing. SOIs have been established to ensure that the characteristics, ingredients and production processes of specific foods are consistent with what consumers expect. Today, economic adulteration is no longer such a prominent issue for most foods, and changes in food labeling requirements give consumers more information about the foods they buy (e.g., nutrition information, ingredient lists, and food allergens). However, the establishment of food standards may still benefit consumers in some cases by ensuring honesty and fair dealing.

The FDA’s work to update SOIs falls into three categories:

  • Establishing principles to more transparently communicate what the agency will consider when determining whether to revise, eliminate, or establish a food standard;
  • Updating individual SOIs to allow for continued innovation in the marketplace, including updating SOIs to reflect modern technologies and processing methods; and
  • Updating SOIs to ensure they are supporting the production and innovation of healthier food.

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