Unilever withdraws Just Mayo lawsuit

by Jeff Gelski
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Unilever claimed Just Mayo does not meet the standard of identity for mayonnaise because it contains no eggs.

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. — Unilever United States on Dec. 18 said it had withdrawn its lawsuit over the labeling of Just Mayo, a product that competes with Unilever’s Best Foods and Hellmann’s brands of mayonnaise. Unilever had filed suit Oct. 31 in a U.S. district court in New Jersey for false advertising and unfair competition against Hampton Creek, the maker of Just Mayo. Unilever claimed Just Mayo does not meet the standard of identity for mayonnaise.

“Unilever has decided to withdraw its lawsuit against Hampton Creek so that Hampton Creek can address its label directly with industry groups and appropriate regulatory authorities,” said Mike Faherty, vice-president for foods, Unilever North America, which has an office in Englewood Cliffs. “We applaud Hampton Creek’s commitment to innovation and its inspired corporate purpose. We share a vision with Hampton Creek of a more sustainable world. It is for these reasons that we believe Hampton Creek will take the appropriate steps in labeling its products going forward.”

San Francisco-based Hampton Creek responded to the dropping of the lawsuit on its Facebook page.

“Hampton Creek was founded to open our eyes to the problems the world faces,” said Josh Tetrick, founder and chief executive officer of Hampton Creek. “This moment has only validated why.”

In the lawsuit Unilever argued “mayo” or “mayonnaise” must contain eggs, which Just Mayo does not. The Food and Drug Administration’s standard of identity defines mayonnaise as “the emulsified semi-solid food prepared from vegetable oil(s),” an “acidifying” ingredient of either (1) vinegar or (2) lemon juice or lime juice, or both, and an “egg yolk-containing” ingredient.

Hampton Creek claims Just Mayo, because it lacks eggs, offers certain benefits. Just Mayo uses less land and water and produces fewer carbon emissions than egg-containing Hellmann’s mayonnaise, according to Hampton Creek, and Just Mayo has no cholesterol and less sodium and saturated fat than Hellmann’s mayonnaise.
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By Kris 1/6/2015 12:02:22 PM
Clearly a sad day for regulatory food law and those that abide by it. Unilever's original stance simply upheld the FDA's standard of identity regulations. By backing down they do a disservice to those who are served and protected by those regulations. Once again bullying tactics prevail. Apparently the standard depends on the retail venue and not the product. The "innovation" and "inspired corporate purpose" claimed by Hampton Creek are all well and good, but they should not bestow a license to flagrantly disregard FDA regulations and besmirch those that follow them as "evil" "big business" entities. Instead, they should have immediately withdrawn their confusing packaging and come up with a legal depiction of their product.