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Published on August 26th, 2015

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FDA: Where’s the Mayo in Just Mayo?

UPDATE: Following a review, the FDA will allow Just Mayo to keep its name as long as Hampton Creek implements certain changes to the label, including enlarging the word “egg-free” and defining “just” to mean “guided by reason, justice and fairness” to avoid any confusion that Just Mayo is an exact replica of mayonnaise. Also, Hellmann’s is now launching its own eggless spread labeled “carefully crafted dressings and sandwich spread.”  What follows is our original post.

My oh mayo. What ingredients does mayonnaise have to have to be considered real mayonnaise?

The FDA has an answer for that and has issued a warning letter to Hampton Creek for its Just Mayo brand.

In its August letter to the company, the FDA, among other issues, said the product does not qualify as mayonnaise, since it doesn’t contain eggs, and its name and imagery of an egg used on the label is misleading. The product, said the FDA, also contains additional ingredients not permitted in mayonnaise.

The agency also warned the company that its “cholesterol free” claim and implied heart health claims are not substantiated because of the levels of fat in the product.

Hampton Creek had also faced a complaint brought by Unilever, the food giant and maker of Hellmann’s, which filed a lawsuit last October against the company. The suit contended that Hampton Creek falsely advertises Just Mayo as mayonnaise because it does not contain any eggs.

just mayo container

Also, a class-action lawsuit alleges: “Despite its name, Just Mayo does not contain mayonnaise and is not mayonnaise at all.”

Unilever withdrew its lawsuit in December amid counter allegations over inaccurate mayonnaise advertising on its own website.

The class action, however, takes up Hellmann’s previous arguments that the FDA defines mayonnaise as a product that contains eggs and that without eggs, Just Mayo “does not perform like real mayonnaise when it is heated.” The class action also alleges false labeling via the prominent image of an egg on the Just Mayo jar.

When Unilever withdrew its suit, the company said it decided to pull the complaint “so that Hampton Creek can address its label directly with industry groups and appropriate regulatory authorities.” At the time, Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick told TINA.org that there were no plans to change labeling, adding that he understood the FDA’s definition for mayonnaise and that’s in part why the spread is named Just Mayo.

The class action notes that the word “mayonnaise” has recently been removed from a section of the company’s website that used to state:

Just Mayo is an outrageously delicious mayonnaise that’s better for your body, for your wallet, and for the planet. It’s a piece of the philosophy to make the good thing a little easier.

The suit seeks monetary damages in excess of $5 million for consumers who bought Just Mayo thinking that it met the FDA’s definition of mayonnaise, insomuch as it contained eggs.

In the meantime, if you find yourself shopping for mayonnaise soon, you might want to check the label to see whether the product is the FDA-definition kind of mayo, or the vegan kind. After all, you don’t want to get yoked into buying something you don’t want.

Click here for more of our coverage on sandwich-related products.

This story was originally published in November 2014 and updated most recently on 2/2/16. 

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