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From eggs to trees, USDA promotional programs controversial

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    FILE - In this Dec. 3, 2013, file photo, Hampton Creek Foods CEO Josh Tetrick holds a species of yellow pea used to make Just Mayo, a plant-based mayonnaise, …

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The slogans are familiar: "The Incredible Edible Egg," ''Pork: The Other White Meat," and "Got Milk?"

They've all been part of promotional campaigns overseen by the Agriculture Department and paid for by the industries that vote to organize them. While the idea is simple — an industry-wide promotional campaign at no cost to the government — they've often generated controversy, been misunderstood and at times have operated with little oversight.

The egg industry is the latest to draw scrutiny for its promotional board after it appears to have waged a campaign to hurt sales of an eggless imitation mayonnaise. According to email documents provided to The Associated Press, the American Egg Board tried to prevent Whole Foods grocery stores from selling Hampton Creek's Just Mayo spread and engaged in other efforts to counter the brand.

According to the documents, American Egg Board CEO Joanne Ivy emailed a consultant in 2013 saying she would accept his offer "to make that phone call to keep Just Mayo off Whole Foods shelves." The effort was apparently unsuccessful as Whole Foods still sells the product.

In a statement Thursday, USDA spokesman Sam Jones-Ellard said the department is looking into the documents and "does not condone any efforts to limit competing products in commerce." But he didn't say if USDA would take any action, and it's unclear if the egg board's communications would violate legal requirements for research and promotion programs.

According to the law, USDA is...


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