Sauce of tension: food industry wants rethink of mayonnaise law


Manufacturers of mayonnaise are contesting a 60-year-old law that dictates the fat content of local recipes, while foreign competitors can steal a march with low-fat versions for the health-conscious

Dressing down

Did you know that the mayonnaise on your fries is governed by a law passed 60 years ago? If you’d ever thought of cutting down on the fat content of the delicious condiment, you can’t: It would be against the law.

By a royal decree, mayonnaise made in Belgium must be composed of at least 80% fat and at least 7.5% egg yolk – whether you like it or not. The food industry doesn’t because if they can introduce less expensive ingredients, like water, for example, and sell it as a healthier lo-fat product, their shareholders will be happy.

“The situation is no longer tenable,” said Nicholas Courant of the food industry federation Fevia. “Our manufacturers are facing discrimination. Foreign competition is allowed to market mayonnaise  containing less fat, making it possible for them to meet the demand for sauces with fewer calories.”

Mayo in Spain, for example, only has to contain 65% fat, and it can legally be sold here as mayonnaise. “If Belgian sauce makers want to sell a similar product, they have to market it as ‘dressing’,” Courant complained.

Earlier this week, consumer affairs minister Kris Peeters agreed to bring the various parties to the table to hammer out a new proposal. That’s likely to be in the favour of producers, which argue that their new pact to cut sugar and fat in processed foods is being undermined by the old law.

“We fear that the changes will come at the cost of the taste and the quality of the mayonnaise,” warned Els Bruggemann of Test-Aankoop. 

Photo by Ingimage