The National Yogurt Association wants consumers to know that if a product is marketed as yogurt, they can depend on it containing at least a minimum amount of live and active bacterial cultures.
"One reason we believe it's very important is the dramatic increase in the popularity of the yogurt category," said Chris Krese, a spokesman for the NYA. "We don't want to sound the alarm bells. We're not trying to say, 'Hey, consumers are being had here.' We are very concerned that into the future some companies may enter the market with the intent of capitalizing on the popularity of yogurt without providing live and active cultures," Krese said. "We're trying to ensure that this standard modernization happens now, before it becomes a problem."
The NYA petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000 to revise its standard of identity for yogurt, to require at least 10 million colony-forming units per gram of live and active Lactobacillus delbrueckii and Streptococcus thermophilus.
"We are getting indications from the agency that it is something they are working on. It is not stagnant, and progress is being made," Krese said. "It does take time to move these things through, and certainly the Food and Drug Administration has a lot on its plate right now. We definitely are understanding, but we do believe this is a very important consumer issue."
In the meantime, the NYA has developed a seal for products meeting the minimum live-culture requirements. To qualify, a state or U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified independent lab must test the products. "The NYA seal, of course, is not mandatory. So, while it provides consumers guidance, it would not prevent the use of the term yogurt" on products that don't meet the seal's criteria, Krese said.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVII/number 6/p. 14