- 1941 - 1945 -
The Fruit Front, Part 1
Fruit Cocktail
 

     The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began to standardize food products before the war and monitor food labeling.  Some food names, such as “fruit cocktail”, became standardized for consumer protection. The federal agency did not stop standardizing food products because of the war and created a standard for fruit cocktail during WWII.

     The process of figuring out a standard recipe for fruit cocktail and what to put on the label took many months of negotiation.  Canners needed FDA approval to use the term “fruit cocktail.”  The dominant canners, such as Calpak, and the trade association, California League of Canners, recognized maintaining high standards on their products worked to their long-term advantage. 

     This made an already difficult time for canners even worse.  They had a standard formula for creating fruit cocktail before the war, but wartime rationing and shortages made it very difficult to make the products according to the pre-war recipes.  Some times fruits were in short supply, such as pineapples or apricots.  Other times, the government altered the sugar ration for canners, and military orders changed frequently. 

     California fruit canners did not want their premiere product to disappear from shelves for the duration of the war because they could not meet the new FDA standards.  Canners wondered if they should seek wartime dispensation to pack an alternate version of fruit cocktail without pineapple or with reduced sugar.  Others thought labeling the products as “fruits for salad” rather than “fruit cocktail” might avoid the issue, as there were no government specifications for such a product yet. 

     In response to these ideas, the FDA ruled that in cases where there was no federal standard, the trade industry standard, meaning the Canners League of California standard, would hold.  This helped loosen the pressure, but the industry standard changed each year during the war.  The discussion of how to pack fruit cocktail did not go away until the war ended. 

     In the end, some canners frustrated with the problem decided to pack only diced peaches and pears because there were no limitations on such products.  Given all the rationing consumers faced, canners were certain that they could sell single fruit canned products.

Sources

Bentley, C. H. "The Tin Can in War." Del Monte Activities, July, 1918.

California League of Food Processors Papers, University of California - Davis, Shields Library Special Collections

Houston, Colonel Bryan. "A Reappraisal of Rationing." The Food Packer, March, 1944.

"Sales of Sugar for Week Will Be Suspended." Modesto Bee. March, 1942.

Van Konynenburg, Frank A. A Home & a Price: 75 Years of History with the California Canning Peach Association. Lafayette, CA: California Canning Peach Association, 1997.

 "What Is the Future Outlook for Processed Foods?" The Food Packer, February, 1944.