The word “dressing” was added to comments that consumers had posted referring to Hellmann’s mayonnaise dressing with olive oil as simply “mayonnaise.”
And a post to Pinterest that had promoted Hellmann’s creamy balsamic mayonnaise dressing as “mayonnaise over the top in taste” vanished — although it still can be seen on Twitter.
The changes represented another round in the fight between the consumer product and food giant Unilever and a tiny start-up, Hampton Creek, which it has sued over the eggless, mayonnaise like spread Hampton Creek has been selling as Just Mayo for a little less than a year.
Unilever claims that the word “mayo” and the image of an egg cracked by a pea shoot that Hampton Creek uses on its packaging fraudulently leads consumers to believe the product contains eggs. It also contends that consumers equate “mayo” with mayonnaise, which must contain eggs under the standard set by the Food and Drug Administration in 1957.
“They have an egg on their package but not in their product — they’re just not mayo,” Mike Faherty, vice president for foods of Unilever North America, said Sunday in the company’s first comments about the case.
The F.D.A. has even gotten involved, contacting Hampton Creek. No other information about the agency’s role was available.
“We’ve been going back and forth with them because the simple fact that this has happened speaks to the larger issue, which is we need for our regulatory framework to be more into line with the way we hope people are starting to eat,” said Josh Tetrick, the founder of Hampton Creek. “My hope is that the F.D.A., Congress and policy leaders are seeing the incredible amount of attention this is getting and will start thinking about that.”
Just Mayo, which does not use the word “mayonnaise” to describe itself, contains Canadian yellow peas instead of eggs.
On Friday, Hampton Creek, which is represented by the law firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner, was collecting information for a countersuit, combing websites for Hellmann’s mayonnaise, which is sold as Best Foods west of the Rockies.
On Nov. 4, the company wrote to Unilever pointing out that it had used the word “mayo” to describe products that do not meet the Food and Drug Administration’s definition of mayonnaise, which includes eggs and a certain percentage of oil.
And consumers posting comments on the Hellmann’s site — or the site of Best Foods — referred to what Unilever calls “mayonnaise dressing” as simply “mayonnaise” or “mayo.”
Mr. Tetrick happened to be on the Hellmann’s site on Friday, talking with Michele Simon, a public health blogger and lawyer who has written about the lawsuit, when Unilever was making changes. The page for Hellmann’s creamy balsamic mayonnaise dressing disappeared as the two spoke.
“It was kind of freaky,” Ms. Simon said. “I was on the phone with Josh, and he was reading something from Hellmann’s website to me — and then it just vanished.”
In August, the page for Best Foods Canola Cholesterol-Free Mayonnaise, which lacks the amount of oil required to call a product mayonnaise under the F.D.A. standard, did not include the word “dressing.” It now does.
Unilever edited customer comments that referred to mayonnaise dressing simply as “mayonnaise.” Early Friday, for instance, a comment by a consumer read, “I could taste no difference in the olive oil mayonnaise and I will continue to buy it because it has olive oil in it!”
It vanished, then reappeared seven minutes later, Ms. Simon and Mr. Tetrick said, reading, “I could taste no difference in the olive oil mayonnaise dressing and I will continue to buy it because it has olive oil in it. “
At least 10 customer comments have been removed from Hellmann’s and Best Foods sites since Friday, Hampton Creek said.
Mr. Faherty said that was proof that Unilever had moved promptly to address the issues raised by Hampton Creek. “Contrast our actions over the last week and Hampton Creek’s,” he said. “They’ve known about their misleading labels for months and done nothing, but the minute we found out there was something misleading on our pages, we took action.”
He said some customer comments were “inadvertently edited when they should have just been removed.”