Hampton Creek Explains To The FDA That “Mayo” Is Not Necessarily “Mayonnaise”

justmayoHampton Creek, the company behind an eggless product called “Just Mayo,” has responded to the Food and Drug Administration’s warning that its product isn’t mayonnaise, and thus, shouldn’t be called “mayo.” That seems just fine by Hampton Creek, which recently responded to the FDA by agreeing with it.

The company acknowledges in a response obtained by Business Insider through a Freedom of Information Act request that the FDA is right — its product isn’t mayonnaise, it’s mayo. And “mayo” is not a regulated term, so its label is completely correct.

“The term ‘mayo’ should not now be held to the regulatory standard for ‘mayonnaise,'” wrote the company’s lawyer, Josh Schiller.

See, mayonnaise is defined by the FDA as a mixture of vegetable oil, vinegar, egg yolk, and lemon juice. Which means if you’re going to put a product on the shelf with the word “mayonnaise” on the label, it had better contain those ingredients.

But Hampton Creek argues that there’s no definition for mayo, because the FDA excluded that word in its definition when the federal regulations governing labels went into place in 1976:

“While there is a food standard of identity for ‘mayonnaise,’ there is no current standard for ‘mayo,'” the company wrote in its reply to the FDA. “Hampton Creek does not use the term ‘mayonnaise’ on any of its products or any of its marketing materials … If FDA had intended to cover products that use the term ‘mayo’ in its standard for mayonnaise, it could have done so, yet it did not.”

The FDA had also taken issue with Hampton Creek’s use of the word “Just” on the label, saying that it implied that the product contained only mayonnaise. But the company said that on that front, the “just” pertains to how it manufactures its products, reducing land use, water use, and carbon emissions while creating an allergy-free product. In this case, “Just” means “fair,” not “only.”

Hampton Creek also urges the FDA to consider expanding its definition of mayonnaise — not that its product is mayonnaise! — to include new and more ecologically sustainable food production methods, thereby putting eggless products in the same category.

The company did acknowledge one change it’s making in light of the FDA’s August letter: it has updated Just Mayo labels to move its cholesterol-free claim to the appropriate location and will no longer imply on the label that its products can reduce the risk of heart disease.

The case is not listed as resolved on the agency’s website, BI notes, though communications between the two parties through Oct. 12 showed that the FDA and Just Mayo planned to meet.

Hampton Creek’s response to the FDA: Mayo is different than mayonnaise [Business Insider]