Should the government tell you what mayonnaise to buy?
Liberals and conservatives would probably agree that freedom is paramount when it comes to sandwich spreads, this is America, after all, but everyone across the ideological spectrum would also agree that some common definition of terms would be called for if someone brought a “cake” and it turned out to be a “vegetable loaf.”
And that is the controversy around mayonnaise. A company called Hampton Creek wants to sell mayonnaise but the Code of Federal Regulations, which govern ‘standards of identity’, was created in 1938 specifically to prevent companies from selling fake food using established names.
A new product can look like mayonnaise, and it can taste like mayonnaise, but mayonnaise has to have eggs or it is not mayonnaise and can’t be falsely advertised as such.
This has the vegan company in a rage – because they want to produce all kinds of foods with plant substitutes.
Outsiders disagree that we should go back to a 19th century free-for-all. “This is one of the most blatant violations of the standard-of-identity rules that I’ve seen in a long time,” Elizabeth Campbell, a former acting head of the FDA’s office of food labeling, who now works at EAS Consulting Group, told Anna Edney at Bloomberg.
The decision could be important to companies and also to consumers who aren’t used to reading labels to see if the thing actually contains any of the thing – do we want to allow companies to sell eggs that have no egg? In 2002, Kraft was forced to remove “food” from the label of its Kraft Singles and replace it with “pasteurized prepared cheese product” even though it tastes like cheese. Should vegan companies get special treatment?