How ‘Big Egg’ Tried to Control Your Mayonnaise
I make my own mayonnaise, as I’ve mentioned: it’s extremely easy if you have an immersion blender that comes with a beaker. I make 1 cup at a time, and it’s delicious. (I use olive oil, and I noticed today in the supermarket a Best Foods/Hellman mayonnaise labeled “Olive oil mayonnaise!” I look at the ingredients: first ingredient was soybean oil. Way down in the ingredients list olive oil did appear, probably 1 tsp per quart of mayo.)
Kaleigh Rogers reports in Motherboard:
This could be the Watergate of the sandwich condiment world.
A major scandal has been brewing in the mayonnaise world over the last few months. If you don’t closely follow egg news that might come as a surprise, but the story keeps getting juicier, and now the United States Department of Agriculture is facing a lawsuit over the whole thing.
The saga reveals how far some Big Agriculture insiders are willing to go to prevent consumers from having access to different kinds of food, which is something that should matter to anyone who doesn’t think publicly-funded groups ought to decide what Americans can and can’t eat.
It all started back in 2014, when Unilever—the company that make Hellman’s mayonnaise—tried to sue Hampton Creek, a small food startup that makes a vegan mayonnaise called Just Mayo. Unilever accused Hampton Creek of false advertising because, according to the Food and Drug Administration, a product must contain eggs to call itself mayonnaise.
Unilever later dropped the lawsuit, but not before it piqued the interest of Ryan Shapiro, a PhD candidate and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) expert at MIT and Harvard. If Hellman’s was this threatened by a vegan mayo, he wondered about the American Egg Board, a marketing group funded by farm taxes collected by the government.
“It was clear the egg industry viewed Hampton Creek as a genuine threat,” he told me.
Shapiro and Jeffrey Light, an attorney with FOIA expertise, filed a request at the end of 2014. By September last year, they had a stack of damning documents, which revealed the Egg Board had tried to sabotage the sale of Just Mayo. Joanne Ivy, then-president of the Board, called Just Mayo a “major threat” and a “crisis” to the egg product business and tried to get the Board’s marketing firm Edelman to campaign against Hampton Creek. According to the emails, members of the Board tried to persuade the FDA to go after Just Mayo for mislabeling and even tried to strong arm Whole Foods into taking the product off shelves.
“It would only take a single call to Whole Foods to have them not take the Mayo,” Ivy wrote in a December 2013 email. “If Anthony [Zolezzi, a consultant for the Egg Board] can prevent Beyond Eggs on the shelves, it would be worth it.”
The documents show a concerted effort to undercut Just Mayo, purely because it was an option that didn’t include eggs, and was therefore a competitor to the egg industry. They suggest that the Egg Board heads were willing to use publicly-collected money to limit the number of options consumers had on grocery store shelves. . .
Read the whole thing. It’s amazing how corporations really do not like competition, despite their lip service to the value of free competition.