UPDATE: Joanne Ivy, the CEO of the American Egg Board, stepped down earlier than her planned retirement Dec. 31, according to the Associated Press. The USDA confirmed the retirement but did not indicate why.
The USDA is looking into the American Egg Board and its moves involving Hampton Creek.
- Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights, has requested the USDA investigate the American Egg Board and their alleged anti-competitive campaign involving Just Mayo eggless mayonnaise from Hampton Creek.
- The letter states that "The 600 pages of correspondence suggest that members of the AEB staff, USDA officials, and top executives from the egg industry engaged in a strategic, multifaceted campaign to use the power and resources of the federal government to undermine the economic prospects of Hampton Creek, based on their fear that the food start-up’s product, Just Mayo, represented a 'crisis' and a 'major threat' to the egg industry," according to a news release.
- In addition to the investigation request, Lee also called into question the need for the AEB, asking whether Congress should continue to authorize an organization that "[behaves] like state-sponsored cartels that intimidate and handicap their competition," the letter said.
Lee points out guidelines for the AEB and checkoff programs, one of which forbids "any advertising considered disparaging or those that depict other commodities in a negative or unpleasant light via either overt or subjective video, photography, or statements."
Alleged AEB actions include it offering counsel to Unilever as to how to proceed with its lawsuit against Hampton Creek over the product not containing eggs but still calling itself mayonnaise. Another was allegedly contacting the FDA with concerns about the company, which prompted the investigation that led to a warning letter from the FDA that ordered Just Mayo to change its labeling or face consequences.