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FDA ends Hampton Creek query; gives GRAS status to protein

Target still not ready to put Just Mayo, other Hampton Creek products back on shelves

With an FDA query behind it and the launch of “Just Scramble” ahead of it, Hampton Creek Inc. is seeking to mend fences with Target, which pulled all 20 “Just” food products from its shelves in June after reportedly receiving letters about food safety issues.

“More than a month ago, Target was led to believe that several of our products were mislabeled or unsafe. We’ve remained confident that our products were safe and properly labeled, and that when presented with the facts, the FDA would agree,” according to a statement Monday from the San Francisco-based Hampton Creek.

“As expected, they have. They informed us, after reviewing applicable evidence, that the matter is closed. We’ve reached out to Target to determine the steps needed to get back on shelves and restore our partnership.”

A spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration confirmed on Tuesday that the agency had closed the matter.

“The FDA has no further questions for the company on this issue and considers this closed,” FDA communications officer Sylvia Ballinger told Food Safety News.

As with its comment on June 23 when it pulled Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo and other Just branded products ranging from cookie dough to salad dressings, Target offered little comment regarding the news from FDA.

“Hampton Creek products remain under review at Target,” Target Senior Public Relations Manager Jenna Reck told Food Safety News on Monday. “As a matter of policy, Target doesn’t comment on discussions with our vendors and has no update to share at this time.”

When the retailer unexplainably reset all of its cash registers to prohibit sales of Hampton Creek products in late June, Target’s official comment did not reference food safety or any other motivation.

“Pending a full review, Target started a market withdrawal of Hampton Creek products, which are being removed from Target stores and target.com,” said the retailer’s official statement on June 23.

Bloomberg news, which received copies of letters sent to Target and at least one other retailer, reported at the time that a variety of food safety concerns were cited.

Hampton Creek flatly denied any food safety problems in a written statement on June 23:

“The allegations that our products are mislabeled and unsafe are false. The Sweet Mustard product complies with all FDA labeling requirements. Our Non-GMO product claims are supported by ingredient supplier documentation. We are confident that our Non-GMO products are properly labeled. 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.”

That resolution, at least as far as the FDA is concerned, appears to have been reached.

Moving forward with Just Scramble
As of Tuesday, Hampton Creek reached a major milestone in a plan to introduce another Just branded product that replaces animal proteins with plant proteins. Dubbed Just Scramble, the egg substitute is built on a mung bean protein isolate.

“Hampton Creek has just been notified by the FDA that our submission for mung bean protein isolate nicknamed ‘Jack’ has been met with a ‘No Questions’ letter from the agency, meaning there are no concerns around safety and it is ‘Generally Regarded as Safe’ (GRAS),” said Hampton Creek Communications Director Andrew Noyes.

“Jack, which our research and culinary teams also refer to as ‘magic bean,’ has been in the food system for thousands of years and it’s the base ingredient for our forthcoming Just Scramble product, an egg substitute that contains 20 percent more protein than a chicken egg with zero cholesterol.”

Noyes said the mung bean protein isolate can also be used to make a range of other products, such as ice cream and butter substitutes. He said Hampton Creek may produce some of those products and license others to other food manufacturers.

Hampton Creek officials expect the FDA’s “no questions” letter to be posted for public view by the end of September, Noyes said. To read the Hampton Creek submission to FDA, click here.

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