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Mayonnaise Lawsuit Puts Small San Francisco Company In The Spotlight

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – A small San Francisco food company is now in the national spotlight after being sued by the food giant Unilever.

David Letterman spread it on pretty thick when he made fun of the lawsuit against San Francisco-based Hampton Creek's eggless Just Mayo.

At a South of Market lab, they never claimed to be making mayonnaise. Just Mayo is a plant-based, eggless, mayonnaise-like spread. But Unilever, makers of Best Foods, is suing, saying they are representing it as mayonnaise.

CEO Josh Tetrick told KPIX 5, "Absolutely, bring it on."

Tetrick sees this as a jar half full. It's giving his company national exposure and a chance to publicize his crusade to have Americans eat healthier food.

"It's been quite a whirlwind, but something we deeply believe in, which is why we're so exercised about the lawsuit. It's more than just a name, it's an argument over where food is going," Tetrick said.

Under the law, and there is actually mayonnaise law, to call a product the M-word, it must contain egg yolks. Just Mayo doesn't. Unilever says the label can trick people.

"We actually use a Canadian yellow pea, that's used by farmers in Western Canada, instead of chicken egg that doesn't always come from the best places, and we think it's a better thing because of it," Tetrick said.

Unilever has some egg on its face over all this. Since filing suit, it's tweaked references on its own website to products that aren't technically mayonnaise, either. They're now being described as "mayonnaise dressing."

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