Why Belgian chefs are angry about plans to tweak a mayonnaise law

September 21, 2015, 3:12 PM UTC
Mayonnaise, More Popular Condiment Than Ketchup In US
MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 30: Jars of mayonnaise are seen in a store on January 30, 2014 in Miami, Florida. The US now consumes some $2 billion worth of mayonnaise each year which is much more than the ketchup market which is worth less than half that around $800 million, according to a recent report. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Photograph by Joe Raedle — Getty Images

Belgians eat more mayonnaise per head than almost any nation in the world. And a fight is brewing to determine what that condiment should contain.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, some Belgian food producers are advocating that the nation loosen standards to create a more level playing field. But on the other side of the fight, chefs and consumer groups warn against messing with what is a royally-approved recipe. Supporters of the change say consumers want a healthier option, and that Belgian producers can better compete with European rivals if they embrace change.

Here in the U.S., a battle about how to define mayonnaise has also squeezed into the condiment aisle. Hellmann parent Unilever last fall sued a startup, alleging false advertisement because Just Mayo lacked eggs. Though Unilever later dropped the suit, the Food and Drug Administration recently stepped into the fray, contending Just Mayo maker Hampton Creek’s products were “misbranded” because they don’t meet the standard identity for mayonnaise.

The mayonnaise market is huge. In the U.S., it is actually the most popular condiment and generates roughly $2 billion in sales annually. And as Bloomberg notes, four of the top six best selling condiments are a mayonnaise.

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