Target has pulled all Hampton Creek products, including “Just Mayo,” pending further review because of food safety concerns.
Officials with the country’s second largest retailer have been in contact with the Food and Drug Administration regarding their concerns, but the federal agency is not providing specific details — yet.
“The decision to remove Hampton Creek products was made by Target. At this time we don’t have any information to share,” an FDA spokesman said Friday afternoon.
Target stores had carried as many as 20 “Just” branded products, including baking mixes, salad dressings and cookie dough. As of Friday night, Walmart, Whole Foods Market and the Kroger Co. were still carrying Hampton Creek products.
Bloomberg broke the news Friday about Target’s action, quoting a company spokeswoman. The news organization has published several investigative reports on the San Francisco-based Hampton Creek in the past year.
“The Target spokeswoman said the company received allegations of food safety concerns as well as accusations of manipulation and adulteration of Hampton Creek’s products,” Bloomberg reported.
“She said one concern involved reports of pathogens found in a manufacturing facility used by Hampton Creek. Target also received allegations that Hampton Creek products had tested positive for salmonella and listeria.”
Target officials declined to provide comment on the situation to Food Safety News, except for a one-sentence statement: “Pending a full review, Target started a market withdrawal of Hampton Creek products, which are being removed from Target stores and target.com.”
As of Thursday, cash registers at Target’s 1,800 stores were set to block sales of Hampton Creek products as staff removed the foods from shelves. Target customers took to Facebook and Twitter, posting questions and complaints on Hampton Creek’s social media pages.
The so-called unicorn startup, a term used for companies that don’t have a proven track record but do have a valuation of at least $1 billion, had not responded to its fans on social media as of Friday night. Hampton Creek, founded in 2011, provided media outlets with a statement upon request, but did not address the situation on its website.
“The allegations that our products are mislabeled and unsafe are false,” according to the Hampton Creek statement.
“We have robust food safety standards, and as such, we remain confident about the safety of all products we sell and distribute. We look forward to working with Target and the FDA to bring this to a quick resolution.”
In addition to food safety concerns, Bloomberg reported part of Target’s motivation to pull Hampton Creek products involved alleged food labeling violations.
“Target said other allegations involve mislabeling: that some products are incorrectly labeled as non-Genetically Modified Organism, or non-GMO food, and that Hampton Creek’s Just Sweet Mustard salad dressing contains honey, even though it is not listed as an ingredient on the label,” according to the Bloomberg report.
Hampton Creek officials flatly denied the labeling allegations in its Friday statement. The company stated its sweet mustard label complies with all federal labeling requirements. Its non-GMO product claims “are supported by ingredient supplier documentation.”
In a September 2016 news story, Bloomberg reported Hampton Creek was the target of investigations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Justice Department for possible securities violations and criminal fraud.
Long-standing policies at both the SEC and the Justice Department prohibit staff from commenting on investigations.
In March this year Hampton Creek founder and CEO Josh Tetrick announced the investigations had been concluded.
Amr Razzak, Hampton Creek’s outside counsel with the law firm Skadden, confirmed the news, according to Fortune, which quoted Razzak on March 24 as saying “The investigations are closed. They are not going to take further action.”
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