The CEO of the American Egg Board has retired earlier than planned, following the release of company emails that show she tried to stop the sale of Hampton Creek's Just Mayo, a popular vegan mayo product, at Whole Foods.
Joanne Ivy retired at the end of September. Before the emails were released, the egg board said she would retire at the end of 2015.
Emails that were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show the board discussing whether or not to alert the FDA about how the name "Just Mayo" is misleading. They also joked about putting out a "gangster-style hit" on Hampton Creek's CEO. There are also emails that show Ivy accepted a consultant's offer "to make that phone call to keep Just Mayo off of Whole Foods' shelves."
Although the American Egg Board didn't succeed in blocking the product from being sold at Whole Foods, the controversy has caused an investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the program.
According to The New York Times:
In a statement regarding its investigation, the USDA said it is "committed to establishing a level playing field that protects and promotes all appropriate agricultural endeavors." It said it did not "condone any efforts to limit competing products in commerce" and that its administrative review would take "some time" to complete.
The emails were obtained by Freedom of Information expert Ryan Noah Shapiro and his attorney Jeffrey Light, who then turned them over to Hampton Creek, which provided them to the AP.
Recently, Hampton Creek received a warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over its use of the name "Just Mayo," since its vegan mayo doesn't contain eggs.
Earlier this year, the startup received ample media attention when its CEO Josh Tetrick wrote an open letter to the presidential candidates that was printed in The New York Times, asking them to fix a "broken food system."
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Image: Mark H. Anbinder