The FDA Will Tell You What Mayonnaise Is, for the Egg Lobby

The FDA is about to hammer a company for selling egg-free mayo because they are making mayonnaise without eggs in it. Control freaks.

I don’t like it but there are vegans in the world. And there are others who, sadly, don’t think eggs (or too many of them) are healthy. Furthermore, there are people with real egg allergies who should not eat eggs.

And there are many such people who like mayonnaise.

So there is a company called Hampton Creek that caters to these customers, selling them a product called “Just Mayo” that openly advertises to be egg-free.

Personally, I’m tempted to respond to egg-free mayonnaise with the line from Monica Gellar, a character on the comedy “Friends,” in response to fat-free mayonnaise and say, “That’s not really mayonnaise.” That’s my opinion and my “enforcement” of my opinion is that I don’t buy the product that Hampton Creek is willing to sell to me.

And that is fine with me. It doesn’t matter to me if others want to part with their hard-earned cash to purchase egg-free mayonnaise. That is their business. Live and let live. This is the way of peace.

But there are other people who might share in my opinion and, instead of simply abstaining from purchasing or ingesting Just May, might instead hurt and punish the business until they stop selling the product as mayonnaise.

I refer, of course, to the control freaks and bullies who are the tax-feeding Food and Drug Administration.

Not only are we taxed to support these people to empower them to harass businesses, but we are taxed to support an unending stream of propaganda to assure us that we owe these people our lives because, before the FDA, the human race was pushed to extinction due to poisoned food.

But even at the wild heights of propaganda, no one ever claimed that human health was harmed or even threatened by egg-free mayonnaise.

According to Christopher Koopman at The Hill, that is exactly why the FDA is threatening Hampton Creek.

At issue is what can and cannot be called “mayo.” Currently, federal law defines mayonnaise, and the code of federal regulations mandates a single recipe: It must include vegetable oil, an acidifying ingredient (either vinegar, lemon juice or lime juice), and egg. In its warning letter sent to Hampton Creek in August, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) explained that the company was in violation of federal law because its products “do not conform to the standard for mayonnaise.” The government takes specific issue with the fact that Just Mayo is made without eggs.

Yes, that is right: our federal government has decided to legislate mayonnaise. The bureaucrats of the FDA must be really confident that there is no real danger facing the public in the area of food or drugs if they are spending their resources to harass a company over this issue.

But, of course, the idea that an institutional bureaucracy has any real priority other than exercising power in order to aggrandize itself is one of the delusions of our time. Koopman points out that “A simple Google search for ‘egg-free mayonnaise recipe’ returns 1.37 million results.” Why doesn’t the FDA shut them all down? After all, if it is federal law that mayonnaise must include eggs, then all these recipes should be federal crimes.

I don’t doubt the FDA would love to be powerful enough to enforce such a monstrosity.

However, it is not simply a matter of government bureaucratic control freakiness. There is also a large dollop of crony corruption. The truth is that the FDA is not designed to protect human health but to safeguard the market for agricultural commodities.

The answer isn’t merely a product of outmoded regulations creating barriers to food innovation. Instead, it highlights a small, yet seemingly powerful, lobby within the federal government: the American Egg Board.

Created by the Egg Research and Consumer Information Act of 1974 and overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the American Egg Board operates with the stated mission of creating “proactive programs to increase demand for eggs and egg products through research, education and promotion.

More recently, through a 10-cent tax on each 30-dozen case of eggs sold, the board has raised tens of millions in funds to support the consumption of eggs. And it seems they’ve been putting it to use. Documents that were disclosed in response to a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request detail a nearly two-year-long effort by the board to destroy Just Mayo.

Emails as far back as 2013 detail how the board attempted to respond to what it considered a “threat” from Hampton Creek and its “competing product,” Just Mayo. During that time, the board tried a number of aggressive tactics to bring the company down. It lobbied retailers like Whole Foods and paid tens of thousands to a public-relations firm to craft messaging that food bloggers could use to convince people to avoid Just Mayo and discredit Hampton Creek.

The American Egg Board even tried to join the American Association for Sauces and Dressings. It was turned down because it doesn’t make sauces or dressing. It also tried to coordinate with Unilever — which owns Hellman’s mayonnaise — in its lawsuit against Hampton Creek. The suit was dropped when Unilever began receiving national attention as a “bully.” Ultimately, in apparent exacerbation, members of the egg industry even joked about placing a hit on Hampton Creek’s founder.

However, the board’s most effective tactic seems to have been lobbying the FDA. As one recent report described it, there is “literally a U.S. government conspiracy against vegan mayo.”

This is the country we live in. The people who started and make their living providing for customers at Hampton Creek pay their taxes in order to fund their own government so it can attack them.

The tradition of market freedom is essentially an underground subculture that we mistakenly confuse with government policy. But our government, of itself, is every bit as dictatorial and tyrannical as the governments of Nazi German or Soviet Russia. The only things that keep them from exercising the same level of power are a few customary expectations of freedom.

And the government is constantly working on wearing down our resistance.