In a letter to U.S. District Judge Edward M. Chen - who recently asked the agency when it would clarify its position on ECJ - FDA associate commissioner for policy Leslie Kux said:
"FDA is actively working on a final guidance to address this issue... However, because of competing priorities, FDA cannot commit to issuing a decision within 180 days... The Agency currently anticipates that a final guidance will issue before the end of 2016."
Scores of food and beverages manufacturers have been targeted in false advertising lawsuits over ECJ in recent years - many of which cite 2009 draft guidance from the FDA advising firms not to use the term because it is 'false and misleading'.
While several of these lawsuits have been dismissed or put on ice following the FDA’s March 2014 announcement that it planned to revisit its draft guidance, manufacturers remain stuck between a rock and a hard place, says the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which last year urged the FDA to simply “declare evaporated cane juice as the name for the ingredient”.
The draft guidance, which isn’t legally binding but is still cited in scores of lawsuits, had caused widespread confusion, said the GMA: “It has created the potential for a significant degree of chaos among sweetener providers, food manufacturers, retailers and consumers."