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CPG Sec 540.150 Caviar, Use of Term - Labeling October 1989

Issued by:
Guidance Issuing Office
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
Office of Regulatory Affairs


No standard of identity has been established for caviar.

Service and Regulatory Announcement No. 3, issued March 1914, Item 21, dealt with use of the term "caviar." This read as follows:

"The letter quoted below was written in reply to a request for information concerning the proper labeling of caviar made from whitefish, to which a harmless vegetable dye has been added.

Dear Sir:

Your question has been taken up at some length with the Commissioner of Fisheries. The bureau is informed that the term 'caviar' can properly be applied to any kind of fish eggs prepared after a special method. The eggs first prepared and most extensively used were those of the sturgeon, and to many people the term 'caviar' is synonymous with 'sturgeon caviar.' In view of this fact and of other considerations, it is believed that the name of the particular fish from whose eggs caviar is made should appear on the label. In the case in point an appropriate label would be 'whitefish caviar.' This bureau will make no objection to the use of the term 'caviar' on a product prepared according to the usual method and made from the roe of whitefish, provided the name of the fish is given in conjunction with the word caviar.

There is no objection to the use of a harmless coloring matter in a product of this kind, provided a clear declaration of the presence of added color is made on the label. It should, of course, be understood that the product should not be labeled in such a way as to lead the purchaser to believe it to be an imported product.


After passage of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in 1938, TC-210, issued March 21, 1940, confirmed the opinion stated in Item 21, with the added proviso that "*** the label should be redesigned so that the words 'Whitefish Caviar' appear in substantially the same size and style of type."

Our policy is still that stated in SRA No. 3, Item 21, and TC-210.


The term "caviar" unqualified should be applied only to the article prepared by the special method (salting) of sturgeon roe.

An article prepared by this special method from roe of other fish may be labeled "______________ Caviar," the blank to be filled in with the common or usual name of the fish from which the roe was taken. All words in the name should be in type of substantially the same size and prominence. The article may be colored provided the color additive is used in accord with regulations to establish safe conditions of use, and the label bears a prominent declaration of the presence of the artificial color.

Since no standard of identity has been established for any form of caviar, the label should bear a statement of ingredients listed by their common or usual names in descending order of predominance.
Issued: 12/3/73
Reissued: 10/1/80, 10/30/89

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