Target Discovers Allegations Against Hampton Creek Were Inaccurate

Let’s have a show of hands, everyone. How many of you suspected something funny was going on when Target unceremoniously yanked Hampton Creek’s vegan products from its shelves a few weeks ago — but no other retailer did?

Indeed, it appears that Target got duped by person(s) unknown. Someone’s got a vendetta against Hampton Creek.

The mystery letter, you’ll recall, alleged “manipulation and adulteration” of Hampton Creek’s “Just” products. As reported by Bloomberg, the letter also asserted there were “pathogens in a manufacturing facility,” alleged products that “had tested positive for salmonella and listeria” and at least one product containing an undisclosed ingredient — honey.

A promotional photo from happier days.  Photo credit: Hampton Creek

A promotional photo from happier days. Photo credit: Hampton Creek Facebook page

Hampton Creek now says the Food and Drug Administration investigated the claims and gave the company a clean bill of health. In a statement, reports Food Navigator-USA, Hampton Creek announced:

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. 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.

“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.

There’s more to this story, though. It looks like Target was not the only retailer to receive this suspicious letter. According to Food Navigator-USA:

[A] person with knowledge of the incident told Food Navigator-USA that Target’s decision to unilaterally ditch the products before giving Hampton Creek the opportunity to address its concerns was very unusual. The source also claimed that at least one other major retailer had received the same anonymous letter that was sent to Target, but chose to weigh up the evidence before deciding to drop the brand.

Shortly after Target stopped selling the Just product line, Hampton Creek hired its own investigators to find out what was really going on. And they soon discovered something disturbing.

Apparently several “fraudulent, unsigned letters” arrived at a variety of retailers, but Target was the only one to react.

The company pulled the products without evidence that there would be a recall, voluntary or not — and without any indication that the FDA thought such action was needed.  Every other retailer who carries the “Just” products sat tight, waiting for additional information before acting.

Here's what's in my own refrigerator right now.  Photo credit: Susan Bird

Here’s what’s in my own refrigerator right now. Photo credit: Susan Bird

An unnamed source close to the investigation told VegNews that that the fraudulent letter Target received “purported to be from [Hampton Creek’s] CEO Josh Tetrick. The letter itself was unsigned, addressed to retail partner executives, and cc’s Bloomberg.”

Really, Target? All this excitement over an unsigned letter and no mandate from the FDA? What were you thinking?

While all this was going on, consumers had to look elsewhere for Just products. I’ll admit that up to now, I’ve made Target runs specifically to stock up on the various Just products I use every week.

With Target no longer an option, here in Florida I could purchase Just Mayo at Publix grocery stores and at Walmart. The Just dressings and Just Cookies couldn’t be found anywhere but Amazon.

Will Target welcome Hampton Creek’s products back with open arms?

In a response to a comment posted on its Facebook page, Hampton Creek said “We’re working with Target to get our products back on shelves there soon! Hang in with us!”

Target spokesperson Jenna Reck said Hampton Creek products remain “under review.”

Meanwhile, Hampton Creek is working hard to be the first company to bring lab-grown “cultured” meat to a store near you by next year. The company also plans to debut a new egg replacement product, “Just Scramble.” Vendetta or not, vegans have much to look forward to.

We’ve heard from Hampton Creek, and they’d love to be back on Target’s shelves. Every other retailer is satisfied, as is the FDA. Your move, Target.

But the final mystery remains, of course. Who’s out to get Hampton Creek?

Photo credit: Hampton Creek

66 comments

Melania P
Melania P9 days ago

Oh please, the USDA and whatever organization is responsible for this should be investigating criminal companies like the ones killing and horribly abusing animals in CAFO's, and no vegan companies. Target, really??

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Jen S
Jen S9 days ago

Has there been an investigation of the letters? While I think Target may have been precipitate, in view of the fact that no other firms pulled the products, and the matter sounded somewhat bizarre, even suspect, I hope the defamed company is able to recover and redress their damages.

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Gino C
Gino C12 days ago

Thank you

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Stephanie s
Stephanie s14 days ago

Thank you

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Greta H
Greta H14 days ago

thanks

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Jennifer H
Jennifer H19 days ago

I can understand Target's actions. The real investigation needs to be after the "persons" who faked the claim.

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Leo Custer
Leo C24 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Jaime J
Jaime J24 days ago

Thank you!!

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Margie FOURIE
Margie FOURIE26 days ago

So glad that they have cleared their name.

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LF F
LF F27 days ago

Too many scary things happen to our food sources and how can we as consumers be any more careful?

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