A small California company was producing a product that violated federal labeling standards. The label used on their plant based product, 'Just Mayo', used the term mayo. However, mayo is shorthand for mayonnaise, which is a egg based product. Just Mayo has no egg.
It is always interesting to read about the company in the hope to get a glimpse of how these mistakes can be made. In the Business Day piece (below), they linked a Business Insider article that was written about the company and its owner. A very unflattering picture of a company that appears more of a techno-business people than people I would want producing my food. To be fair, the owner had written a response to the Business Insider piece, but still, it provides a picture.
Just Mayo Spread Violates Mayonnaise and Label Rules, F.D.A. Says
By STEPHANIE STROMAUG. 25, 2015
The Food and Drug Administration has told Hampton Creek, a tiny company selling plant-based replacements for proteins derived from animals, that some of its Just Mayo products violate federal regulations related to standards for mayonnaise and proper labeling.
In a letter dated Aug. 12, the agency wrote that even the term “mayo” in the brand name and the logo, a minimalist egg “cracked” by a pea shoot, “may be misleading to consumers” by implying there are eggs in the products.
“The term ‘mayo’ has long been used and understood as shorthand or slang for mayonnaise,” William A. Correll Jr., director of the F.D.A.’s office of compliance for food safety and applied nutrition, wrote in the letter. The agency also said that Just Mayo and Just Mayo Sriracha contained too much fat for the company to imply that they were “heart healthy.”
The federal standards of identity for food require that any product called mayonnaise contain eggs, which neither Just Mayo nor Just Mayo Sriracha does. In addition, the letter said:
“We also note that these products contain additional ingredients that are not permitted by the standard, such as modified food starch, pea protein and beta-carotene, which may be used to impart color simulating egg yolk. Therefore, these products do not conform to the standard for mayonnaise.”
The F.D.A. issues dozens of warning letters to food companies each year about potential violations it finds with their labeling.
Josh Tetrick, the company’s founder and chief executive, said he spoke with an F.D.A. official on Tuesday about the agency’s concerns. “It was a good conversation, and we’re going to write an honest, thoughtful letter back to them, as they suggested,” Mr. Tetrick said. “Apparently, there are often gray areas when it comes to these things, and they sounded very open to digging into this with us.”
Ivan Wasserman, a specialist on food advertising and labeling who is the managing partner in the Washington office of Manatt Phelps & Phillips, said Hampton Creek was likely to have a tough time persuading the F.D.A. to let the company’s labeling stand as is.
“The company and the F.D.A. may have a back-and-forth and come to an agreement about modification of the label, but certainly it does seem that the F.D.A. is on fairly strong footing,” Mr. Wasserman said.
For the last several years, the egg industry has been worried that Hampton Creek will cut into egg sales, according to emails and documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by Ryan Noah Shapiro, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has become somewhat of an expert at using the law to obtain documents.
And in fact, some companies have begun adopting the company’s products in the wake of the avian flu epidemic that devastated the egg industry this spring and summer.
Hampton Creek’s plant-based spread also has dented sales of conventional mayonnaise, according to a lawsuit Unilever filed against the company last year. The lawsuit raised some of the same issues about Hampton Creek’s labels that the F.D.A. is raising, but Unilever dropped it.
This would not be the first time Hampton Creek has run afoul of federal food labeling regulations, which are esoteric and complex. In a recent article about the company on Business Insider, a news website, unnamed former employees complained that it had used the phrase “lemon juice” on its labels rather than “lemon juice concentrate,” as required by federal labeling laws.
Mr. Tetrick later posted a response, that, among other things, apologized for using the wrong terminology for juice and said he had moved “within days” of being told about the issue by an employee to order a change in the language on the labels.
The F.D.A. said nothing about lemon juice in its Aug. 12 letter. It said it had been studying the labels for Just Mayo and Just Mayo Sriracha since June.