Be careful, the spread you’re about to lather your bread in may not truly be mayonnaise.
And the federal government is at the ready to protect you from the heartbreak of faux mayo.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is going after a spread called Just Mayo for what it considers false advertising, but is this really just a push by established mayonnaise makers to put a lid on rising profits and competition?
Hampton Creek Foods received a warning letter from the FDA challenging Just Mayo, a vegan egg-less spread, as not mayonnaise because it doesn’t contain any eggs, yet has an image of an egg on the label. It also faults the product for containing ingredients not permitted by standard mayonnaise such as modified food starch. In addition, the FDA says Hampton Creek is making unqualified health claims about reducing heart disease.
The Hill reports:
The FDA also took issue with the company’s health claims.
“Specifically, your website, www.hamptoncreek.com includes the following statements, ‘Your Heart Matters. When your heart is healthy, well, we’re happy. You’ll never find cholesterol in our products.' Adjacent to this statement is a heart-shaped symbol with a smiling face,” the agency said in its letter to the company. “Together these statements and heart symbol are an implied health claim that these products can reduce the risk of heart disease due to the absence of cholesterol.”
Though there are unauthorized reports that a diet lower in cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease, the FDA said Hampton Creek can’t make a heart healthy claim because its products contain more than 13 grams of fat per labeled serving, or per 50 grams.
Perhaps the biggest issue is the name, Just Mayo. As Fox News reports, it may be more than a game of semantics:
"The term 'mayo' has long been used and understood as shorthand or slang for mayonnaise," the agency said in the letter to Hampton Creek, the maker of Just Mayo. The San Francisco-based company has positioned the spread as a healthier and more environmentally friendly alternative to mayonnaise.
Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick said Tuesday he had a "really good conversation" with the agency earlier in the day and that he believes it is open to "sitting down and seeing if there's common ground."
Tetrick said he doesn't think the company will end up having to change its name.
"We feel good about where we are from a regulatory perspective, from a legal perspective," Tetrick said.
Is this a big to do about nothing? False advertising is wrong, but you can read the Just Mayo ingredients and for many buyers of the product the draw is precisely that it does not contain eggs, which have gotten an undeserved bad rap over the last few years. Could this be just another example of established food companies crying foul because new competition is challenging them?
Let’s not forget that Miracle Whip, developed by Kraft in the 1933, which contains ingredients that generally aren't considered proper by mayo purists, but is often considered mayonnaise and hasn't brought down the wrath of the FDA.
At the end of the day, consumers can read and should determine whether the product they are purchasing is mayonnaise or just a spread like Just Mayo and Miracle Whip.