The CEO of the American Egg Board, Joanne Ivy, has quit her position. Her departure comes almost two months after The Guardian published emails that showed Egg Board officials trying to stop Whole Foods from selling the eggless mayonnaise spread Just Mayo. Ivy unexpectedly stepped down today, even though she was supposed to remain CEO of the American Egg Board until the end of the year.
Allegations were previously raised by The Guardian that officials affiliated with the Egg Board and their member companies sent letters to Whole Foods attempting to persuade them not to stock Just Mayo.
Shortly after Ivy announced her earlier-than-expected retirement on Friday, The Guardian revealed it had obtained emails indicating American Egg Board officials broke the law when lobbying against Just Mayo manufacturer Hampton Creek. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has begun an investigation into the Egg Board, The Guardian reports.
Hampton Creek has been at the center of a maelstrom involving its Just Mayo vegan spread. Multinational firm Unilever, which owns the Hellmann’s brand of mayonnaise, sued Hampton Creek last year over the “Just Mayo” appellation, arguing that any food calling itself “mayo” or “mayonnaise” has to contain eggs.
Meanwhile, another government agency, the Food and Drug Administration, previously ruled Just Mayo is misleading customers due to its name. The Guardian leaked a series of emails from players in the egg-based mayonnaise industry, including the American Egg Board, expressing fear and worry about the impact of Hampton Creek’s products on the egg industry.
Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick told Fast Company that he “find[s] it compelling that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsac, formerly the governor of Iowa, the number one egg producing state, is thoughtful enough to launch a formal investigation.” He also credited conservative senator Mike Lee (R-UT) with his role in the process.
Fast Company has reached out to the American Egg Board for comment.