Hey Unilever, is it mayonnaise or mayonnaise dressing?

canola oil Hellmanns

<strong>Canola</strong> Cholesterol Free Mayonnaise Dressing


The image on the left is a picture taken by Josh Tetrick, CEO of Hampton Creek, at a Safeway in San Francisco on Sunday, November 16. It shows the Best Foods Canola Cholesterol Free variety labeled “mayonnaise.” However on the Best Foods website is the image on the right, which has the same product labeled “mayonnaise dressing”. According to federal law, to be called “mayonnaise” the product must contain at least 65 percent oil by weight, which this product does not. For more details on mayogate see my post from yesterday.

4 Responses to “Hey Unilever, is it mayonnaise or mayonnaise dressing?”

  1. jenny white says:

    heard you speak on CBC radio 1 this morning…great!
    You may be interested in a food activist/food security guy who lives in British Columbia…Tony Mitra…has been on a tour across Canada speaking with scientist Thierry Vrain. The focus has been gmo/food security/etc…I think you might like to check him out…doing amazing things…like you.

  2. insider! says:

    You really don’t understand food standards and labeling.

    Mayonnaise is one thing. For better or worse, we agree. This is the ‘law’ as written. No one said it was great, but we need to have something here.

    And, while JUST MAYO has a point perhaps – that stds are archaic, that consumers should have choices, that innovation is good – there’s no news there. Yet these standards are what we have to deal with as ‘big food’. And remember, ‘big food’ was little food not so long ago. But ‘little food’ will not feed this planet.

    Listen: I am all for choice, for organic, for local – bring it on! – but that’s a first world problem, writ large. Take one example, perhaps the easiest: the behavioral change required on a PLANETARY SCALE to make organic not just mainstream but the best practice is simply not sustainable on a rock that passed 7 billion a few years back, will be 8 billion in 15 years, and 9 billion 20 years after that. Organic is simply not sustainable if human survival is at the centre of your sustainability agenda. Sure, here in the “west” we can choose, but our paychecks give us that choice, most of us.

    At the other end of the scale, there is little choice except for subsistence farming, growing enough for you, your family, perhaps enough to share with your village. In the middle, the great scratching, crawling, striving middle class of China/India/Indonesia, those in the unnecessary hell that is all-too-common in Africa, those whose first investment after “MAKING IT!!” is to buy a refrigerator, because the second thing they do is eat more meat. (Now THAT’S not sustainable! If everyone ate one less meat meal per week, ……… : finish that thought…..)

    So ‘big food’ is also ‘necessary food’, whether you like it or not. And there are rules and laws and guidance at work to make sure we all play somewhat fair.

    Some things are waaaaay out of hand though. Suicide seeds? Hate’ em. Bad idea. So, yeah, there’s some ‘big food’ which is a little too big. Fight to change that! Fight to change food standards! Educate! But don’t mislead, and that’s what your game is, OK? Your piece on CBC Podcast this morning was embarassing to those of us who know just a little about food standards and labels. Yet if your intent was to stir the pot, you can check the box.

    Back to the point, mayonnaise has not changed, well, ever. This is what it is. For someone like Hampton to come along and build a better mousetrap is great – really. But if a mousetrap ‘shall’ be made from wood, don’t make it out of plastic unless you modify the common name to let consumers know how your better (?) mousetrap is different from everything else called “MOUSETRAP”.

    And, back to your ‘which is it?’ question for Unilever: Mayonnaise Dressing is “dressing”. Dressing. DRESSING. That’s an UN-standardized term. It means essentially nothing except to guide consumers to what it’s kinda like. And, in this case, Best Foods suggests that describing their (non-mayonnaise) stuff as ‘MAYONNAISE DRESSING gives consumers a better indication of what it’s kinda like: it’s dressing, ok? and it’s kinda like mayonnaise.

    Eggs. You want to talk about happy chickens? Let’s go. Most are unhappy. Most males don’t make it past the shredder. These are facts. They have been facts for centuries. This is how agriculture works – BIG AND SMALL. You want to change it? Become a farmer. This is stewardship. You may not like it, it may offend you and others, but this is how it works.

    Finally MAYOGATE. (What is it with you blogger guys needing attention with these scandal-building terms??). Listen – consumer verbatims are usually uploaded to websites by people with little or no regard – or knowledge – of food regulation. Often they’re loaded by consumers themselves. Words mean things, ok? For example, you say JELLO, and I remind you that it is ‘flavoured gelatin dessert’. You say KLEENEX and I remind you it is actually ‘facial tissue’. Hampton says Just Mayo, and I remind them that mayo has eggs, etc. But, point taken: Unilever should perhaps caveat the consumer verbatims as what they are, instead of scrub them. Not a great move, imo. But “Mayogate”? Please. Save that for something serious.

    Full Disclosure: I work in ‘big food’ now, but not for Best Foods. I’ve worked for little food, I worked on farms for years, I worked in government for years.

    PS: trying to get the ‘harm to public health’ thing you’ve got at work here with this piece. Eg, not sure how this is aligned with you mandate: “specializing in legal strategies to counter corporate tactics that harm the public’s health.” On the other hand, I will be sure to read your book to better understand your positions.

    • MoodyFoodie says:

      (Please see my reply below for why there’s no issue with this product’s name). And to add to your comment – let’s not forget that those pesky standards are there in the first place to protect informed consumer choice, too… and are we supposed to pick and choose to protect only those foods we actually LIKE as consumers? Or if there’s something in it we don’t like, we can play fast & loose with its name? No, surely these things should be …standard. :)

  3. MoodyFoodie says:

    Hello, The Cholesterol-Free Mayonnaise (-dressing) comes under the provision under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, for “foods named by use of a nutrient content claim and a standardized term” (see 21 CFR 130.10). There is no disconnect there, nothing wrong with that, but if HC don’t know the regulations they probably find this strange. In fact, the only odd thing is that it’s questionable whether it was really necessary for Best Foods to use “Dressing”, and they may have done so in an abundance of caution, recognizing that it is different from what the consumer may expect (but that is the whole point of those rules, anyway…).

    I’m actually sympathetic with the makers of “Just Mayo” and I think they raise some valid points about the egg industry, ethical, nutrition, taste reasons to choose their product, but imho they just haven’t gone about it the right way. I get the impression the “Just” + “Mayo” was meant as a double-entendre implying “justice or fairness” (to animals, the earth etc.), but there’s only so much room to play with standardized names. Even “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter” SAYS it’s not the product it’s imitating. I have to wonder what Regulatory advice they sought if any on that. And who really thinks “Mayo” is NOT just short for “Mayonnaise”? Could you put out a product called “OJ” that wasn’t a juice?? By that logic, in principle, we could just throw out all standards of identity, saying that the average consumer doesn’t understand them so they are not being misled = Less Regulation, well, some people would probably be happy! But I can’t get on board with that. We’ll be back to “The Jungle” in no time.

    BTW, what is the actual statement of identity on the ‘Just Mayo’? I haven’t seen this anywhere.

    I don’t agree with Unilever’s tactic or argument that it is hurting Hellman’s (when in fact Hampton Farms is really preaching to the Converted here, who would be likely to choose substitutes anyway). Kraft/Mondelez would be a more logical plaintiff, with their product actually called “MAYO / Real Mayonnaise”! In other countries, of course, it wouldn’t come to this as an authority would be the one to pull up the operator on use of product name either on their own initiative or following a competitor complaint, but then there’s no millions in fees to be made by a plaintiff! Still this case raises many interest questions, and I’ll be following it. :)

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