The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently issued a warning letter to a company selling vegan mayonnaise asking it to stop marketing the product under the name of mayonnaise since it lacks a basic ingredient of the special sauce – egg yolks.
Vegan mayonnaise is a product that targets people who do not consume animal products or are concerned that the tasty product may up their cholesterol levels. So, Hampton Creek Foods, Inc. decided to sell a product that smells, tastes, and looks like mayonnaise but with no eggs.
On Aug. 12, the company received a notice from the FDA which said that the “standard of identity” for mayo is for it to have eggs as an ingredient. The document was signed by FDA’s William A. Cornell, Jr., the chief of the agency’s office of compliance.
Mr. Cornell Jr. noted that the label of the company’s vegan mayo dubbed ‘Just Mayo’ clearly showed that the product missed a key ingredient – eggs. Moreover, the FDA investigators found that the food item contained ingredients that are not common to traditional mayonnaise such as pea protein, food starch, and beta carotene.
The food starch is usually used in vegan food to give them more texture, the pea protein is designed to make the product more filling, while the beta carotene is a natural coloring to make the product look more like the real thing.
Mr. Cornell Jr. was aware that the beta carotene was there to simulate the color of egg yolk, but he was not impressed. He said that the product does not follow the “standard for mayonnaise.”
According to the agency, all products sold under the name of “Mayonnaise” or “Mayo” need to be made of at least 65 percent vegetable oil and have at least one egg yolk among other ingredients.
Yet, Hampton Creek Foods had a revolutionary idea. It managed to create an ingredient that acts like and egg and tastes like it out of Canadian yellow peas. Nearly a year ago, it announced the first eggless mayonnaise that tasted like real mayonnaise.
Just Mayonnaise was a huge hit, and it is already the top selling mayonnaise at Whole Foods. The company planned to introduce the product to Walmart and Target customers as well this fall. Plus, the manufacturer expected $35 million worth of sales by the end of the year. Bill Gates and Vinod Khosla are two major shareholders of the San Francisco-based company.
But in November, Unilever, which sells Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise, filed a complaint stating that a real mayonnaise should have eggs in it. And everything that does not contain eggs should not bear that name. But just a month later, Unilever dropped the complaint and said that it hoped its competitor would take the appropriate measures on its own.
For now, Hampton Creek Foods has 15 days at its disposal to answer the FDA’s letter.
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