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Just Mayo Is Just Misbranded, says FDA

On August 12, 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning letter to Hampton Creek Foods, Inc. regarding its Just Mayo and Just Mayo Sriracha products.  FDA considers the products to be misbranded, as they don’t meet FDA’s standard of identity for mayonnaise, which requires egg as an ingredient.   “The use of the term ‘mayo’ in the product names and the image of an egg may be misleading to consumers because it may lead them to believe that the products are the standardized food, mayonnaise,” FDA said.  FDA also noted that the products contained “additional ingredients that are not permitted by the standard, such as modified food starch, pea protein, and beta-carotene.”

The warning letter comes nine months after Unilever filed a lawsuit against Hampton Creek for the same issue.  Unilever claimed that Hampton Creek’s misbranding was deceiving customers and hurting sales of Unilever’s own mayonnaise products.  Unilever withdrew the lawsuit a month later to allow Hampton Creek to properly re-label its products.

In the warning letter, FDA also took issue with “cholesterol free” claims made on the Just Mayo labels for three reasons:

  • The Just Mayo product labels fail to disclose the level of total fat per serving in immediate proximity to the cholesterol claims, which is required by FDA due to the amount of fat in the products.
  • The labels state “You’ll never find cholesterol in our products,” which is an unauthorized synonym for “cholesterol free.”  Nutrient content claims may only be formatted in ways specifically defined in FDA regulations.
  • The labels state “Your Heart Matters. When your heart is healthy, well, we’re happy. You’ll never find cholesterol in our products.” FDA said this implies that “these products can reduce the risk of heart disease due to the absence of cholesterol.”  This is an implied health claim for which the products are not eligible to make due to their fat content.

Other labeling issues mentioned in the warning letter include an improperly formatted Nutrition Facts label and incorrect placement of the information panel. FDA gave Hampton Creek 15 days to respond to the warning letter with an outline of corrective actions.

Distributing misbranded products in the United States is a prohibited act.  It is prudent to have your food label reviewed for regulatory compliance before marketing the product in the USA, as discovering issues post-marketing can yield time consuming and costly challenges as well as damage your brand.   For example, Hampton Creek will likely need to redesign and reprint its label as well as re-label and rebrand its Just Mayo products as something other than mayonnaise.

Registrar Corp offers a Label and Ingredient Review Service through which our Regulatory Specialists will review all elements of your food label for FDA compliance, including standards of identity, claims, the Nutrition Facts label, and more.  After the review, you’ll receive a detailed report (usually 40-50 pages), along with a print-ready graphic file that incorporates Registrar Corp’s changes.

For more information about U.S. FDA food labeling regulations and how Registrar Corp can help, contact +1-757-224-0177 or chat with a Regulatory Advisor 24-hours a day at www.registrarcorp.com/livehelp.

To learn more about the five most common food labeling mistakes, click here.