FDA states that it will issue “evaporated cane juice” guidance by the end of 2016.
- For the past several years, food companies have faced putative class action lawsuits related to the use of the term “evaporated cane juice” (ECJ) on product labels. Various lawsuits have alleged that the term violates federal and state laws, citing as support a 2009 FDA Draft Guidance that states “FDA’s view that the term [ECJ] is not the common or usual name of any type of sweetener, including dried cane syrup.” Judges presiding over ECJ-related cases have looked to FDA for guidance on the lawfulness of the term as used on product labels.
- On July 13, 2015, FDA issued a letter to a judge in the Northern District of California, indicating that the Agency is “actively working on a final guidance” to address the use of the term and “currently anticipates that a final guidance will issue before the end of 2016.” In March 2014, FDA re-opened the comment period on its guidance and sought information about the basic nature and characterizing properties of the ingredient declared on labels as ECJ. The Agency notes that it received “a substantial number of comments and extensive amounts of supporting materials,” which FDA now must consider.
- Food industry stakeholders — including the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) — have criticized FDA’s 2009 Draft Guidance for exposing the industry to litigation risks and causing chaos for manufacturers. Many urge FDA to accept and endorse the use of the term ECJ, which they state is a defensible term based on the manufacturing process and the characterizing properties of the substance. It remains to be seen whether FDA’s final guidance will improve the situation for the food industry.