COLLEGE PARK, MD. — Just Mayo and Just Mayo Sriracha products from Hampton Creek, Inc. are in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because they do not meet the definition of the standard for mayonnaise, according to an Aug. 12 warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration. The letter cited other problems with the products, including a “cholesterol free” claim and implied heart health claims.
The warning letter said Hampton Creek should take “prompt action” to correct the violations.
“Failure to promptly correct these violations may result in regulatory action without further notice, such as seizure and/or injunction,” the letter said.
The letter said Hampton Creek, upon receiving the warning letter, had 15 working days to respond.
When reached for comment by Food Business News, San Francisco-based Hampton Creek referenced a story that appeared on-line on Inc.
|Josh Tetrick, c.e.o. and founder of Hampton Creek.|
“There’s no reason for us to rename the product,” Josh Tetrick, chief executive officer and founder of Hampton Creek, said in the Inc. story.
He said the company was in touch with the F.D.A. and was hopeful that the agency will agree with the company’s arguments for keeping the Just Mayo name.
The F.D.A.’s warning letter said product labels and labeling on the www.hamptoncreek.com web site were in violation. Just Mayo and Just Mayo Sriracha do not meet the definition of the standard for mayonnaise because they do not contain eggs, according to the warning letter addressed to Mr. Tetrick and signed by William A. Correll Jr., director, office of compliance, for the F.D.A.’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
“The term ‘mayo’ has long been used and understood as shorthand or slang for mayonnaise,” the F.D.A. warning letter said. “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, which must contain eggs as described under 21 CFR 169.140(c). Additionally, 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 warning letter also noted Just Mayo and Just Mayo Sriracha contain additional ingredients not permitted by the standard, including modified food starch, pea protein and beta-carotene, which may be used to impart color simulating egg yolk.
The Just Mayo product was the focus of a lawsuit last year. Conopco, Inc., doing business as Unilever, filed the lawsuit Oct. 31, 2014, in a U.S. district court in New Jersey. The lawsuit claimed Hampton Creek, Inc. sells a sandwich spread called Just Mayo that is a plant-based vegan alternative to mayonnaise but does not meet the standard of definition for mayonnaise. Unilever, which has a U.S. office in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., sells Best Foods and Hellman’s brands of mayonnaise that compete against Just Mayo. Unilever United States on Dec. 18, 2014, said it had withdrawn its lawsuit.
Hampton Creek last year claimed its Just Mayo offers certain benefits because it lacks eggs. 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.
Too much fat for heart claim
Besides the standard for mayonnaise, the F.D.A.’s warning letter also cited the “cholesterol free” statement on the Just Mayo product label and the statement “You’ll never find cholesterol in our products” on the www.hamptoncreek.com web site.
The letter said that if the reference amount customarily consumed (RACC) is small (30 grams or less or 2 tablespoons or less) and the food contains more than 13 grams of total fat per 50 grams, then the label must disclose the level of total fat in a serving in “immediate proximity” to the cholesterol claim. Both Just Mayo and Just Mayo Sriracha contain 10 grams of total fat per 14-gram serving, which means the total fat in 50 grams is about 36 grams.
The web site also includes the statement, “Your Heart Matters. When your heart is happy, well, we’re happy. You’ll never find cholesterol in our products.” A heart-shaped symbol with a smiling face is next to the statement. The F.D.A. said the statement and the heart symbol together are an implied health claim that the products may reduce the risk of heart disease due to the absence of cholesterol. Since Just Mayo and Just Mayo Sriracha each contain 36 grams of fat per 50 grams, they do not qualify for a health claim, according to the letter.
This year letters from Hampton Creek have appeared as advertisements in The New York Times. The letters have addressed food leaders, chief executive officers, presidential candidates and President Obama. Mr. Tetrick signed the letters.
The Hampton Creek letter to President Obama, which ran in the Aug. 23 issue of The New York Times, said the United States has an outdated food system that is causing problems such as diabetes, food deserts and the decline of family farms.“What would it look like if we started over in food?” the letter said. “If we started over, good food — for the body and our land — would be much less expensive than crappy food. If we started over, the right thing would be the easiest thing for a single mom in Honolulu finishing her degree and raising her son.”