When President Trump took office, he promised to eliminate 75 to 80% of FDA regulations, which is clearly a tall hurdle. Deregulating cherry pies is just one small, slightly comical step in that direction. Comical because of the specificity of the rules and the questions that ensue. Think "three reindeer rule" in cherry pies and you're there.
The FDA recently committed to deregulating the frozen cherry pie market. Specifically, the agency is re-examining current regulations dictating that frozen cherry pies are required to be at least 25 percent cherries by weight and that no more than 15 percent of these cherries may be blemished.Clearly an obvious question is "what does 'blemished cherry' mean"? To quote the FDA,
Not more than 15 percent by count of the cherries in the pie are blemished with scab, hail injury, discoloration, scar tissue, or other abnormality. A cherry showing skin discoloration (other than scald) having an aggregate area exceeding that of a circle nine thirty-seconds of an inch in diameter is considered to be blemished. A cherry showing discoloration of any area but extending into the fruit tissue is also considered to be blemished.Personally, I'm going to be that if you're not a cherry grower, pie maker, or otherwise in the industry, you probably couldn't tell any one of those cherry blemishes from the others. If you took a bite out of a cherry and it tasted off, you probably don't care that it looked beautiful, and likewise if it was discolored or had a scar but tasted wonderful, you probably don't care much either. I'm not quite sure if I'd care if it had an aggregate discolored area of 0.2813" diameter (9/32) or 0.3125" diameter (10/32 =>5/16").
Failure to meet these requirements means the product gets slapped with a label indicating it fell "Below standard in quality," along with notes about cherry content or blemished cherries.
But that's not all. Everything has to be defined. For example, "Frozen" doesn't mean baked and then frozen; it's much more complicated than that.
The agency has been regulating frozen pies since 1977. In that time, it has developed numerous additional regulations specifying what makes cherries blemished, what counts as frozen, and how much crust is needed to cover the pie. Frozen cherry pies are also the only fruit pies which must meet these standards.I'm sure there are going to be some nanny state lovers cowering in fear, afraid that they'll get 24% cherries instead of the regulation 25%, and never consider that the market might encourage cherry pie makers to boast their pies have the Most Cherries or the Best Cherries. Certainly, when there are standards like this, or on other foods, there is some good, the question is always whether the regulations do more harm than good. Ordinarily, the big companies are in favor of the regulations. They propose regulations and know how to live with them. That's not the case with frozen cherry pie regulation.
Even bakers seeking political favors (yes, they exist) are eager to see such outlandish regulations eliminated. As one New York Post article reports, Lee Sanders of the American Bakers Association is “hopeful the cherry pie standard will finally be revoked, but that it would not make a big difference for the industry.” It’s not every day you find a regulation so poorly executed that not even special interest groups support them.
Regardless of how the regulation passed, and how long overdue removing it is, we should be happy it will soon be gone. Maybe next the FDA will loosen its requirements on the size of the holes in Swiss cheese.