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Lessons from the Headlines: Do Not Mislead Customers with Labels

Bottom Marks
Over the past few months, there have been relatively constant reminders that mislabeling food products will land a brand in hot water in the form of recalls demanded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration. Increased public outrage regarding misrepresented products - largely the result of expanding food allergies and plenty of communications tools to get the word out about subpar business practices - is fueling regulator activity with respect to investigations and penalties. 

In many ways, a lack of accuracy and consistency in labeling strategies can hurt a company from several different angles, including the immense costs of a recall, the fines associated with being found to have misled the public and the damage to brand reputation that can last for years. However, all these issues are highly avoidable, as companies can leverage custom labels and quality control measures to ensure that every ingredient is listed properly and negligence is mitigated. 

Because it only takes a matter of minutes for a major faux pas to be well known by virtually everyone on social media, the time to iron out labeling policies is now, especially for food producers and similar businesses. The FDA is at it again with one popular company for its lack of accuracy - and potentially intentional misleading of customers - in the labeling of the products from which it sees the greatest revenue generation.

Mayo Fail
Fast Company recently reported that burgeoning mayonnaise giant Hampton Creek, based out of San Francisco, has been targeted by an FDA investigation because it might be including eggs in what is marketed as a vegan condiment. Although the company's advertising department appears to be bearing the brunt of this particular dilemma, the labels on the packaging have been called into question for the product, named Just Mayo.

According to the news provider, the label actually has a picture of an egg in clear view to show that the mayonnaise does not use this product, and somewhat humorously, the FDA also believes that the product should not be called mayonnaise if there were no eggs among its ingredients. So, this is not just a matter of a simple mistake or even a cut-and-dry issue that can be quelled with a little adjustment to the label, as the product's name itself has been called into question. 

"The name 'Just Mayo' and an image of an egg are prominently featured on the labels for these products," the FDA explained, according to Fast Company. "The term 'mayo' has long been used and understood as shorthand or slang for mayonnaise. The use of the term 'mayo' in the product names and the image of an egg may be misleading to consumers because it may lead them to believe that the products are the standardized food, mayonnaise, which must contain eggs."

Furthermore, the source noted that this is a somewhat widespread problem, in that companies which offer alternative options to popular foods will need to be increasingly careful about how they label their products in the coming years. 

More Problems
Raw Story, discussing the same topic, recently explained how the FDA is concerned about several other components of this particular company's labeling of its mayonnaise - or alleged mayonnaise - products. 

"Your Just Mayo and Just Mayo Sriracha products are misbranded ... because the labeling for these products bears nutrient content claims, but the products do not meet the requirements to make such claims," the FDA wrote in a letter to Hampton Creek founder Joshua Tetrick, as quoted by Raw Story. "The use of the term 'Just' together with 'Mayo' reinforces the impression that the products are real mayonnaise by suggesting that they are 'all mayonnaise' or 'nothing but' mayonnaise."

Business leaders must recognize their responsibility to ensure and uphold label accuracy to avoid these issues.