Count the cherries in your frozen pie. Does it measure up to FDA rules? Soon, it may not have to. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it is paring down its regulation of certain foods—including getting rid of the decades-old rules for frozen cherry pies.
President Donald Trump has pushed for deregulation of a broad selection of food standards. His administration wants to free manufacturers from obscure rules—and let the consumer market decide which products succeed based on what they’re willing to purchase.
Standards for an array of foods including cottage cheese, canned peas, and peanut butter were put in place decades ago partly to ensure a level of quality. They spell out how products with specific names can be made, including ingredients that are required or disallowed. The rules for frozen cherry pies say they must be 25% cherries by weight with no more than 15% of the cherries being blemished, bruised, or crushed. In this case, regulation ensures that the consumer is not getting less than what he thought he was paying for. (Fairness in business is a biblical principle. See Proverbs 20:10.)
It’s not clear why some food terms have standards and others don’t though. Perhaps some disgruntled pie purchaser lifted the crust of his dessert with the tine of a fork, found a disappointing number of plump, sweet fruits swimming in the sugary goo beneath, grumbled, “There oughta be a law…”—and got taken seriously. No one seems to know why cherry pies are regulated when other fruit pies get to set their own standards.
The rules are a sore spot in the food industries. Companies say they are burdensome, preventing innovation and sometimes prompting lawsuits.
Lee Sanders of the American Bakers Association hopes the cherry pie standard will be revoked. Losing the law would take what she considers unnecessary pressure off cherry pie makers. But still, she says nothing is likely to change in the product even if the rule is gone.
If the pies are not plump enough, would diners still buy them? Companies have clear incentive to create products consumers want to return to—and that means pies with a satisfying number of cherries in them.
“I feel confident our members are producing cherry pies with more than enough cherries,” she says. But in the near future, whether they are or not may no longer be the government’s business.