Just Mayo, the vegan mayonnaise created by San Francisco company Hampton Creek, gets to keep its name. The Food and Drug Administration had sent a warning letter to the company, stating it couldn't market a product as mayonnaise if it doesn't contain eggs, but the company tells Quartz the government agency has reversed ground.
Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick told Quartz new labeling will stress the fact that Just Mayo does not contain eggs. The FDA said it "considers the issues cited in the warning letter to be resolved and will issue a close out letter soon."
After receiving the warning letter in August, Tetrick used a Freedom of Information request to obtain emails from the American Egg Board, a pseudo-governmental lobbying agency that's funded by the egg industry but run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Those emails showed the Egg Board paid bloggers to slam the product, tried to persuade Whole Foods to drop Just Mayo, debated alerting the FDA to how the name "Just Mayo" was supposedly misleading, and joked about "putting a gangster-style hit on Hampton Creek's CEO." Some emails also mentioned possible ways to discredit Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern, who has expressed his adoration of Just Mayo on TV and online.
In a phone conversation with Eater, Zimmern explained he supports Hampton Creek because he believes the company is changing America's food industry for the better.
"What this whole thing with the FDA and the Egg Board brings up for me is that the folks responsible at the top of the chains, instead of trying to help make a food life great for all Americans, are actually just trying to make it right for a few corporations," Zimmern said. "This is the kind of stuff that is fascinating when you're cuddled up with your loved one at night, watching Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State — you know, all this paranoid government conspiracy stuff.
"But the minute I got the emails and saw my name littered all over it and saw the casual joking reference of 'we should just squash Hampton Creek, we should kill Josh Tetrick,' stuff like that, I began to look at the bigger picture of what this means. ... The food life that's in the center pages of the magazines, some of which I work for, I believe whole heartedly should be available for all Americans."
After the Egg Board's shady emails came to light, the organization faced public backlash. That resulted in CEO Joanne Ivy stepping down. Ivy had been set to retire on December 31 of this year, but she instead left at the end of September. After Tetrick obtained the emails, he was shocked at what he found.
"A number of the things — especially a lot of the illegal stuff, whether it's paying someone to call Whole Foods to block the distribution of our product, or attempting to influence the sauces or dressings lobby, even mentioning stuff about putting a hit out on me — it stops you in your tracks a little bit," Tetrick told Eater at the time. "It gets you to think, 'What the hell's going on here?'"
In a statement posted on Hampton Creek's Facebook page following the ruling, Tetrick said "this isn't a story about winning or losing."
"It's a story about how our food system can be the thread running through much of what's good in this world," Tetrick said. "A food system that's healthier and stronger and more aligned with our values. A food system where the right thing is the easiest thing for a single mom working at a hair salon trying to raise two sons."