Thursday, September 03, 2015

New emails illuminate the egg checkoff program's campaign against a vegetarian alternative to mayonnaise

Attorney and advocate Michele Simon yesterday posted a remarkable story based on emails from the egg checkoff program, acquired through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

The emails describe the egg board's campaign against "Just Mayo," a vegetarian alternative to mayonnaise that may not meet the federal government's "standard of identity" for "mayonnaise," which requires eggs.

(U.S. Food Policy first discussed this standard of identity question in February, 2014, long before it had generated any litigation. It was covered recently in the Washington Post's Wonkblog.)

In the emails, egg checkoff program officials -- who are not allowed to seek to influence policy -- try to persuade FDA to crack down on "Just Mayo." They also discuss their efforts to place stories favorable to eggs on blogs that cover diet issues, such as this one in Fooducate.

Simon writes:
One of the most important ways that industrial animal agriculture promotes its products is through Congressionally-mandated “checkoff” programs. Each industry member pays into a collective fund that is controlled and managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The American Egg Board is the egg industry’s checkoff program. Very specific rules govern how it operates, all supposedly overseen by the USDA. The Egg Board’s stated mission (which stems from federal law) is “to allow egg producers to fund to carry out proactive programs to increase demand for eggs and egg products through research, education and promotion.”

And yet, USDA’s recent response to a Freedom of Information Act request reveals a number of highly questionable activities that likely violate federal law. The documents (summarized here) are mostly email exchanges between Egg Board executives and others in the egg industry, or with PR consultants, and reveal a disturbing pattern of attacks on Hampton Creek over a two-year period from 2013-2014. (There’s no indication that the campaign has stopped.)

1 comment:

Country Lawyer said...

"Industrial animal agriculture promotes its products" OK, the last time I looked, dairy check-off monies were being deducted from our milk check for our 60 cow herd in NY. The "Industrial Animal Agriculture" "trigger phrase" is getting a little tedious and devalues the thousands and thousands of average sized farms that pay in. Farmers across the rural northeast contribute: Pennsylvania: 7,000 farms (average 70 cows), New York 5,000 farms, average 113 cows)...etc. along with tens of thousands of other dairy farmers.

Our friends in the food movement routinely dismiss the farmers who try to promote their products to survive in the global marketplace.

Lorraine Lewandrowski