A group appointed by the U.S. government tried to destroy a Silicon Valley start-up after concluding that the plant-based food company was “a crisis and major threat to the future” of the $5.5-billion-a-year egg industry in the U.S. A series of emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows the American Egg Board (AEB), a US department official, and egg industry executives working together to bring down Hampton Creek who make vegan mayo, plant-based egg replacer and other egg-free products. Think things have gone too far? Sign this petition to investigate the USDA Egg Board.
The 600 pages of emails, obtained by MIT FOIA expert Ryan Shapiro, revealed the plans made between the AEB, the USDA and the egg industry to eliminate Hampton Creek, manufacturer of the egg-free Just Mayo. Outgoing head of the AEB advised Unilever on a lawsuit against Hampton Court to have “mayo” removed from their labeling. The USDA’s national supervisor of shell eggs later advised the AEB to reach out to the FDA about Just Mayo’s labeling.
The AEB also used their influence, and hired a private consultant, to persuade Whole Foods to drop Just Mayo from its shelves – Whole Foods still sells the product. To undermine Hampton Creek’s Beyond Eggs product, the AEB’s research arm the Egg Nutrition Center, hired a private consultant, Gilbert Leveille, to test the patent for the product. “Were I in your position I would focus on nutritional quality and on the emerging science, much of which ENC has sponsored,” Leveille concluded.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of mayo-gate is the threats bandied about in the emails. More than one AEB official jokingly threatened Josh Tetrick, Hampton Creek’s founder. “Can we pool our money and put a hit on him?” asked Mike Sencer, executive vice-president of AEB member organization Hidden Villa Ranch. Though the FDA has ruled that Hampton Creek must change the name of Just Mayo, Tetrick has said they have no plans to comply.
Via The Verge