Unilever, the company behind Hellman’s mayo (also known as Best Foods in the west), is suing Hampton Creek for falsely portraying its product “Just Mayo” as mayonnaise. Hampton Creek, a San Francisco start-up company, uses yellow peas instead of eggs in its product. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines mayonnaise as an emulsified semisolid food prepared from vegetable oil, lemon and/or lime juice, and an ingredient containing egg-yolk.
Unilever is suing under the Lanham Act, which allows companies to sue competitors for unfair competition due to false or misleading product descriptions. The way Unilever sees it, Just Mayo does not fit FDA’s definition of mayonnaise, therefore the product is misleading.
Unilever claims that Hampton Creek has deceived consumers and negatively affected Unilever’s sales. Unilever wants Hampton Creek to…
- Recall Just Mayo.
- Pay Unilever damages that are three times the start-up’s profits, as well as cover Unilever’s legal fees.
- Stop using the egg on its label because it misleads consumers into believing there are eggs in the product.
- Stop claiming that Just Mayo beat Unilever’s mayonnaise products in a taste test because it has no proof.
Food manufacturers should ensure they thoroughly understand FDA regulations before labeling their products. This is not only to avoid a false advertising lawsuit, but also to avoid misbranding. Under 21 USC 343, any product that is represented to be a food with a definition and standard of identity, but does not conform to such definition and standard, shall be deemed to be misbranded. It’s a prohibited act to distribute misbranded products within the United States.
Registrar Corp is a consulting firm that helps food and beverage companies comply with U.S. FDA regulations. The firm offers a Label Review Service. When executing a label review, Registrar Corp’s Regulatory Specialists cross-reference a company’s label against thousands of pages in the Code of Federal Regulations, including those that define and standardize food. To learn more about FDA labeling regulations or to request a label review, contact Registrar Corp at 1-757-224-0177 or speak with a Regulatory Advisor 24 hours a day at: https://www.registrarcorp.com/livehelp.