Just Mayo actually isn’t mayo, after all. At least not according to the Food and Drug Administration.
Federal regulators have warned Hampton Creek Foods, the company behind the vegan-friendly, eggless spread that has put a dent in mayonnaise’s market share in recent years, that it is violating the law by “misbranding” some of its products.
“The use of the term ‘mayo’ in the product names and the image of an egg may be misleading to consumers because it may lead them to believe that the products are the standardized food, mayonnaise,” the FDA wrote in a letter to the company dated Aug. 12 but posted online Tuesday.
“The use of the term ‘Just’ together with ‘Mayo’ reinforces the impression that the products are real mayonnaise by suggesting that they are ‘all mayonnaise’ or ‘nothing but’ mayonnaise,” the agency continued. “However, your Just Mayo and Just Mayo Sriracha do not meet the definition of the standard for mayonnaise. According to the labels for these products, neither product contains eggs. Additionally, the products contain additional ingredients that are not permitted by the standard of identity for mayonnaise, such as modified food starch.”
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The problem, in other words, is not that Hampton Creek Foods is offering an alternative to traditional mayonnaise but that it is marketing it as indiscernible from the conventional option.
“It’s one thing to enjoy some of the halo for mayonnaise, but it’s another to dupe consumers,” said Parke Wilde, an associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. “I think they’re probably a little over that line with ‘Just Mayo.’ I can definitely see how it’s a bit misleading.”
Hampton Creek has 15 days to respond to the FDA’s recent warning letter. Hampton Creek’s chief executive, Josh Tetrick, could not immediately be reached for comment.