Egg Producers Caught Conspiring to Shut Down a Vegan Mayo Startup
By Katie Herzog / grist.org
Sep 4, 2015

The mayos wars are heating up. On the battlefield: the American Egg Board versus Just Mayo.

Just Mayo looks like mayo, smells like mayo, and tastes like mayo, but it’s actually mayo’s vegan doppelgänger that uses pea protein in place of eggs. It’s made by the San Francisco startup Hampton Creek, and it’s this very lack of eggs that has the American Egg Board scrambling (sorry).

According to documents recovered from the AP, the American Egg Board — which is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture — has been on a campaign to get Just Mayo off grocery-store shelves. The AP reports:

The documents offer a sometimes comic glimpse into the alarm the egg group felt about the startup and its CEO, Josh Tetrick, who has said he wants to make the food system more environmentally friendly by replacing the eggs in an array of foods with plant-based alternatives.

“You want me to contact some of my old buddies in Brooklyn to pay Mr. Tetrick a visit?” one egg board executive wrote to another, presumably in jest.

Presumably. The story, however, gets even weirder than vague threats by egg magnates. The investigation revealed that the USDA asked the Food and Drug Administration to challenge Just Mayo’s food claims, and in August 2015, the FDA sent Hampton Creek a letter stating that it had “significant violations,” including misbranding and mislabeling Just Mayo, as well as making specious nutritional claims. (The FDA has yet to release a statement on their motivations.)

The Egg Board also worked with Unilever, the parent company of mayonnaise manufacturer Hellmann’s, in a lawsuit against Hampton Creek alleging that Just Mayo isn’t mayo because it doesn’t have eggs. American Egg Board president Joanne Ivy wrote in an email:

I just got off the phone with a guy working with the Unilever case with Hampton Creek. He wanted me to say that we supported Unilever in this lawsuit with Hampton Creek, but I told him that we could not take a position. However, since the regulation requires eggs in mayo and their product does not, I said that they should make sure that FDA is aware to address this situation. I feel sure they are aware but they may need to be pushed.

The lawsuit was later dropped, but don’t worry — there’s more. The American Egg Board recruited Anthony Zolezzi, an “eco-entrepreneur” with, presumably, friends in high places, to call Whole Foods and ask that they stop selling Just Mayo. FromQuartz:

Zolezzi said he offered to help the egg board because he considered Just Mayo’s packaging to be misleading and doesn’t think removing eggs from people’s diet and replacing them with plant-based foods is a good idea.

Riiiiiight. And they paid him.

Zolezzi wasn’t the only shill on the American Egg Board’s payroll. They also paid the PR firm Edelman $43,000 to find bloggers to promote eggs. An account executive at Edelman wrote in an email that the bloggers would “encourage their readers to make a conscious decision to choose real and sustainable foods, like eggs, on their path to a healthier lifestyle.”

Now, is any of this illegal or is it good, old-fashioned American business? Attorney and advocate Michele Simon says laws were probably broken:

… programs like the Egg Board are legally required to stay within the boundaries of advertising, promotion, consumer education, and research. Specifically not allowed are lobbying activities. The statute says that no funds shall “be used for the purpose of influencing government policy or action. However, several email exchanges indicate this provision was violated.”

Looks like the Egg Board needs to brush up on its statutes … or at least stop using public funds to further its own agenda. Either way, this fight is juicier than a Nicki Manaj tongue lashing. Stay tuned.

2.5 ·
1
Trending Today
7 Signs of Tyranny
2 min · 5,149 views today · Consider yourself warned.
How Comedy Can Disarm Bullies
3 min · 4,402 views today · As long as you're funny, it can get you out of almost anything - even getting mugged, as co-founder of Between Two Ferns Scott Aukerman recounts. Unfortunately, not everyone...
How Independent is Hollywood?
4 min · 3,156 views today · A huge number of big-budget Hollywood films, especially those featuring war, conflict or terrorism, are influenced by Hollywood's close relationship with the United States...
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 2,151 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
Globalization Makes No Sense
Chris Agnos · 1,645 views today · When I lived in San Francisco, I often would marvel at the movement of goods through the ports across the bay in Oakland. Full container ships would enter the bay one after...
Immigrants For Sale (2015)
33 min · 1,497 views today · The detention of migrants has become a multi-billion dollar industry in which immigrants are sold to the highest bidder and traded like mere products. The Corrections...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 1,275 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Proof of Evolution That You Can Find on Your Body
4 min · 1,169 views today · Vestigial structures are evolution's leftovers — body parts that, through inheritance, have outlived the context in which they arose. Some of the most delightful reminders of...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,046 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,043 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Touch Isolation: How Homophobia Has Robbed All Men Of Touch
Mark Greene · 738 views today · Homophobic prohibitions against male touch are hurting straight men as well.
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 681 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
Why Would Any of Us Want to Live like a Savage?
Juan Pablo Quinonez · 565 views today · Let’s not be romantic. Industrial civilization is no utopia. For every creature comfort we have, something or someone pays the price. The wilderness is no fairy tale either...
How Wolves Change Rivers
4 min · 527 views today · When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable "trophic cascade" occurred. What is a...
Without Saying a Word This 6 Minute Clip From Samsara Will Make You Speechless
6 min · 493 views today · Can you put this video into words? It's a clip from the phenomenal documentary Samsara, directed by Ron Fricke, who also made Baraka.  If you're interested in watching...
Where the Term "Redneck" Came From
15 min · 481 views today · If you don't know this story, you'll never look at the word the same again.  This is just a window into the sometimes shocking, subversive and untold history of the United...
Stunning Small Homes Form Part of a Communal Compound for Best Friends
Lighter Side · 374 views today · If you’re lucky enough to have longtime friends even as an adult, then you know probably already know how much it means to be able to spend time together. Maybe you even have a...
Compassion, the Antidote
Martin Doblmeier · 365 views today · Thich Nhat Hanh has published nearly 100 books and is one of the best-known teachers of Zen Buddhism in the world today. In the early 1960s his practice of what he termed...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 252 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
The Foiled Bomb Plot in Kansas That Didn't Make Trump's Terror List
5 min · 243 views today · When a plot by a pro-white militia to bomb a Somali mosque in Kansas was foiled by the FBI last October, the aborted conspiracy received little national coverage - nor did it...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
Egg Producers Caught Conspiring to Shut Down a Vegan Mayo Startup