(Mary Ham) As always, the Food and Drug Administration has its eye on the ball and its arms around freedom…in a big, stifling bear hug. The Founders no doubt intended that the federal government would have a passel of people in charge of telling successful condiment producers what they can put on their labels. For freedom.
In this case, the federal government has decided a vegan company cannot put the name “Just Mayo” on its clearly labeled vegan mayonnaise product because the company doesn’t include egg whites in the mixture and does include some healthy stuff, like beta carotene. One would think most could discern from a vegan “Just Mayo” product that advertises itself as a vegan mayo product that it probably doesn’t have eggs—an animal product—in said vegan product. But why trust the American consumer when you can crack down on a small, upstart business selling a product people like to the people who like it? And, if we are to concede that it is indeed horribly misleading to call this product mayo, does it have to be a function of the federal government to correct this?
In a warning letter sent to Hampton Creek earlier this month, the FDA noted several “significant violations” of federal regulations. The first complaint is that Hampton Creek uses the term “cholesterol free” on the label of its “Just Mayo” products.
Nevermind that Just Mayo is, indeed, a cholesterol-free food. While the FDA allows foods with up to two milligrams of cholesterol per serving to bear claims that they’re free of cholesterol, this statement is forbidden on products “customarily consumed” in small amounts if they a) have more than 13 grams of fat per 50 grams and b) fail to “disclose the level of total fat in a serving of the product in immediate proximity to the cholesterol claim.”
The FDA also claims Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo and Just Mayo Siracha are “misbranded” because they do not meet federal requirements for calling something mayonnaise. Under federal law, only foods 1) containing at least 65 percent vegetable oil, 2)vinegar and/or lemon juice, and 3) some sort of egg-yolk product may be labeled mayonnaise. It can also contain preservatives, salt, sweeteners, spices, flavoring, and monosodium glutamate, but only “provided it does not impart to the mayonnaise a color simulating the color imparted by egg yolk.” Any other ingredients are forbidden.
Want to sell mayonnaise with an egg substitute, lime juice, or slightly less vegetable oil? Too bad—the FDA does not think the market can handle such ingredient chaos.
This is not the first time Hampton Creek has been the target of an egg-based lawsuit. Last year, Unilever (which owns the prominent mayonnaise brand Hellmann’s) sued the company over false advertising and unfair competition arguing, essentially, what the FDA is laying down: no eggs, no mayonnaise.
In December, Unilever dropped the lawsuit, perhaps in part because of a Change.org petition asking the company to “stop bullying” the startup, which collected more than 112,000 signatures.
Is the FDA perhaps being a tad oversensitive? After all, its definition of mayonnaise hasn’t been updated since the 1950s, when a vegan diet was a mere twinkle in the eyes of the mainstream public. Should Hampton Creek really have anticipated that the FDA would cleave so thoroughly to the egg requirement?
These are “significant violations,” says the FDA, worthy of time and money spent battling them in the name of protecting American consumers. Just as natural skim milk labeling is worth exerting the feds’ power and making a creamery throw out perfectly good milk and risk its business. Or, just as raw milk sales in Pennsylvania by an Amish farmer are worth a SWAT raid.
Remember all of these stories when liberals tell you the federal government is in imminent danger of starving of funds.