Decoding Labels: Spectrum Organic Olive Oil Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise labels are scary. Have you looked at them lately? Most read like chemistry textbooks with goodies like modified corn starch and maltodextrin and calcium disodium EDTA. Most are made with genetically-modified soybean and canola oils. Most contain corn syrup.

So, let’s imagine that you’re a conscientious shopper and you want a better mayonnaise. You may have bought this week’s product: Spectrum Organic Olive Oil Mayonnaise.

Spectrum is a reputable brand. Organic certification means the oil is not made from genetically-modified crops. And olive oil = heart healthy. What’s not to love?

Here’s what the manufacturer claims:

“Smooth, creamy mayonnaise seamlessly blended with the nutty, savory richness of Extra Virgin Arbequina Olive Oil from Spain. Live it up with a spoonful on grilled artichokes or the fresh catch of the day. This exciting new product takes full advantage of Spectrum’s many years of experience of bringing to market the finest Olive Oils the world has to offer. GLUTEN FREE. No hydrogenated fat or preservatives used.”

Spectrum Organic Olive Oil Mayonnaise: Ingredients

  • Organic expeller pressed soy and/or canola oil,
  • organic whole eggs,
  • organic egg yolks,
  • organic extra virgin olive oil,
  • filtered water,
  • organic honey,
  • organic distilled vinegar,
  • sea salt,
  • organic mustard (organic distilled vinegar, water, organic mustard seed, salt, organic spices),
  • organic lemon juice concentrate.

Spectrum Organic Olive Oil Mayonnaise: DECODED

Here’s something everyone should know about labels. Ingredients are listed from most to least. It’s the law. So, ingredients at the top of the list make up the majority of the product. Ingredients at the bottom tend to be spices, preservatives, colors, etc. because they are used in the smallest quantities.

Check out what’s at the top of this — ahem — “Olive Oil” Mayonnaise: organic expeller pressed soy and/or canola oil. Before we dive into why those are two nasty oils (even in their “organic” form), let me just say that this is true of every major label olive oil mayo that I’ve ever seen. Whether it’s Kraft Olive Oil Mayonnaise or Hellman’s, the front brands them as an olive oil mayonnaise but the back shows that really, they’re just soybean oil.

Next to olive oil, the cooking oil marketed as the most “heart-healthy” out there is canola oil. But what is it? Canola oil is a newly created oil, invented in the 1970s as a low euric-acid version of the otherwise not-really-edible rapeseed oil. In 1998, through the marvels of genetic-engineering, the now ubiquitous variety of rapeseed (which makes up roughly 87% of all rapeseed grown in the U.S. and Canada) was created. So, it’s safe to say that all non-organic varieties of canola oil come from these genetically-modified plants.

But what about organic canola oil? This comes from a naturally selected, low euric acid rapeseed plants. But despite being GMO-free, the oil itself is still unhealthy. That’s partly because Canola oil is between 28-35% polyunsaturated fats. In traditional food cultures, polyunsaturated fat intake made up less than 4% of the total fat intake. We ought to do likewise.

And, according to Mary Enig, PhD (author of Know Your Fats : The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol), “Although the Canadian government lists the trans fat content of canola at a minimal 0.2 percent, research at the University of Florida at Gainesville, found trans fat levels as high as 4.6 percent in commercial liquid canola oil” (source).

How did those trans fats get in there? Because of how this oil has to be made. You see, prior to the industrial revolution, making seed-based cooking oils was far too labor intensive and (in many cases) downright impossible. All the ancient cooking oils (like coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil, etc.) are easily pressed out of the plant without needing extremely high-pressure or high-temperature extraction.

After the industrial revolution, we had the technology necessary to create modern seed-based cooking oils. So, we did.

But the process of making and refining these oils translates into one thing: rancid polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). PUFAs don’t hold up well to heat or pressure. The same is true for both organic canola and organic soy oil. Soybean oil is roughly 58% polyunsaturated fatty acids — nearly twice that of canola! So, in the process of being extracted from the seed, these oils oxidize and many of them plasticize (turn into trans fats). The end result is stinky and unappetizing, so the oil is further “cleaned” using bleach or alternative chemicals to deodorize it.


And we call this heart healthy?

The semi-magical term expeller pressed simply means that the oil wasn’t extracted with a heated chemical solvent like hexane. Rather, the soybeans and rapeseeds were heated, then put under extreme pressure to release the oil.

Every other ingredient on this label gets a green light from me. I could be nit-picky and say that organic whole eggs don’t mean that the eggs are pasture raised, or that organic honey isn’t necessarily raw. But honestly, what do you expect in a mass-produced food? You can’t let the ideal be the enemy of the good.

Spectrum Organic Olive Oil Mayonnaise: THE VERDICT

So, what should you use instead?

Of course your first option should be to make your own homemade mayonnaise. That way, you can ensure that the eggs come from pastured hens, the oils are as raw and unrefined as you desire, etc. You can even mildly ferment the mayonnaise to inject your condiment with a healthy dose of probiotic cultures and living enzymes.

(Check out my recipe for homemade mayonnaise.)

Alternatively, if you absolutely must buy mayonnaise because you never like the taste of homemade, there is only one out there that I can recommend.

To my knowledge, it’s the only soy- and canola- free mayonnaise available on the market. It’s also the only mayonnaise made entirely with healthy, traditional oils.

And it tastes positively divine. I tried this oil at this year’s Wise Traditions Conference and was so blown away that I bought an entire case of it!

It’s the Wilderness Family Naturals Organic Mayonnaise.

(Where to find Wilderness Family Naturals Mayonnaise)

Want Your Labels Decoded?

In this series on Decoding Labels, I’m highlighting deceptive labeling practices, hidden ingredients, and more! If you’ve got a particular label pet-peeve you’d like me to share, please feel free to email me with your idea. It may just turn into a blog post!


    • KristenM says

      What it means is that they reserve the right to use whatever combination of the two proves the cheapest during their manufacturing process. And, since those prices may fluctuate, the label gets stuck with an “and/or.”

      • says

        I realize that, but if a top ingredient fluctuates with the market, so does the final product. It is different if the ingredient was, say, eighth on the list. “Potato and/or corn starch” in a canned soup. (yuck, but making an example.)

  1. Michelle D says

    I was just looking at this exact product at Natural Grocers yesterday! I almost put it in my cart but then figured I better check the ingredients and I was shocked that the olive oil mayo had soybean oil as the first ingredient! I guess I shouldn’t be shocked but I guess I expected more from Spectrum. Lesson learned! And thanks for the mayo rec!

    • KristenM says

      It’s impossible for me to NOT read labels. Even when I’m not at the grocery store. If I’m in a friend’s house or a family member’s house and I pick up something with a label, I *have* to read it. It’s a compulsion.

      That doesn’t necessarily mean I go around lecturing them on their food choices, just that I absolutely can’t ever ignore an ingredients label.

      I’ve been conditioned.

      • Jami says

        I’m wondering if the organic spices on the ingredient list doesn’t raise any concern? I thought many times when given just the generic spices or natural flavors or something similar its a good sign they’re hiding something. Why not just list the spices? I’ve read MSG is hiding behind these terms.

        • KristenM says

          When they list just “spices,” it’s usually because the manufacturer has ordered a pre-made spice mix. So, the spice mix is listed as an ingredient in much the same way that a recipe might call for Lawry’s Seasoned Salt or Mrs. Dash — you refer to it as a whole, rather than the sum of its parts.

          That said, MSG or some other nasty could be one of the ingredients in the spice mix, and when that happens the nasty ingredient is “hidden” under the label “spices.”

          So, yes, there’s some measure of concern. One thing to note, though, is that this is the last (meaning least used) ingredient in the mustard, which happens to be the second least used ingredient in the mayo. So, while there’s some measure of concern, it kinda pales in comparison to the concern I have over the soy and canola oils used.

      • marie says

        I have everyday labels on products that i buy memorized- but i am always reading labels on new products or products i don’t buy.

  2. LisaT says

    Thank you SO much for the mayonnaise recommendation! I had given up on ever finding a commercial mayonnaise that wasn’t made with rancid oils. I can’t wait to get it in the mail and give it a try – thanks, again!

  3. says

    What about Hain Safflower Mayo?

    Other Ingredients: Expeller pressed safflower oil, whole eggs, grain vinegar, filtered water, egg yolks, salt, egg whites, dehydrated cane juice, spice, lemon juice concentrate, honey, [mixed tocopherols (vitamin E) ingredients not found in regular mayonnaise], natural flavors, paprika extractives (for color).

    I just bought a whole case of this stuff. It had been the best I could find but now I see that it is not so great, although it is better than the Spectrum. It’s been a really long time since I actually read the label … my thinking has changed a lot since then!

    • KristenM says

      Unfortunately, safflower oil is just as bad as soybean, corn, or canola oils in that it has only been cultivated for cooking oil use in the past 50 years or so. For most of its history, we’ve cultivated safflower to make dyes, not food.

      Thankfully, it’s not a GMO.

      Here’s what Mary Enig & Sally Fallon had to say about safflower oil:

      “Safflower oil contains almost 80% omega-6. Researchers are just beginning to discover the dangers of excess omega-6 oils in the diet, whether rancid or not. Use of these oils should be strictly limited. They should never be consumed after they have been heated, as in cooking, frying or baking. High oleic safflower and sunflower oils, produced from hybrid plants, have a composition similar to olive oil, namely, high amounts of oleic acid and only small amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids and, thus, are more stable than traditional varieties. However, it is difficult to find truly cold-pressed versions of these oils.” (source)

      • says

        We use this.

        And I’ll tell you why… homemade mayo goes bad here, cause we don’t use much mayo. Even if I just make a cup at a time, it goes bad.

        We tried the Wilderness stuff and wound up throwing it out. We disagree that it tastes good.

        So since we use very little, I consider the safflower stuff a decent compromise.

        I also keep safflower oil for hubby, who rarely bakes, but seems incapable of melting coconut oil and then mixing eggs and such into it without it solidifying. Luckily, I do most of the baking, but the safflower oil is another compromise.

        I buy both the mayo in pint-sized jars and the oil in quart-sized jars and they last 4-6 months we REALLY don’t use much.

        I’d RATHER a coconut oil mayo (the stuff I made was half coconut and half olive), but the Wilderness is the only brand with decent ingredients and it tastes funky to us.

  4. says

    Perhaps I’m feeling defensive because I have a container of (non-organic, but all natural, expeller-pressed-canola-based) Trader Joe’s mayo in my fridge…. but I find it a little ironic that you say that you can’t let the ideal be the enemy of the good. I eat organic, home-raised, raw, etc., as much as possible, and am ALWAYS on the lookout for ways to do better, to improve the health of my family through the healthy foods we eat, and do it while staying on budget. Most of the things I prepare for my family of seven is from scratch. And, I have made my own mayo before — it’s divine and quite easy to do. However, I don’t ALWAYS make mayo from scratch — I usually do it when I get raw/organic eggs from the CSA I participate in, for the half of the year that it’s available. But… I have definitely decided that I won’t let the “ideal be the enemy of the good” where mayo is concerned. Now, if we were eating gobs of it, perhaps I would be more concerned. It’s a occasionally-used condiment in our home, not a staple. But, for my purposes, Trader Joe’s mayo (at $3.99 per quart, ingredients: expeller pressed canola oil, whole eggs, ACV, egg yolks, water, salt, spices, lemon juice concentrate) suit just fine. Plus, it’s available locally — no shipping needed.

    • KristenM says

      Good for you! We all have to draw our personal lines somewhere.

      I love mayonnaise and use it almost daily in things like egg salad, chicken salad, crab salad, tuna salad, homemade salad dressings, and more!

      Because it’s such an integral part of our fat intake, I want the fat in it to actually be GOOD for me.

      I also believe that the single most important thing we can do to affect our personal health and wellness is to start eating a better balance of healthy, traditional fats. (More important even than eating organic.)

      My point is that we each have to make our own priorities in the kitchen.

      Plus, my goal with this series of posts is to help people become more adept and informed consumers so that they can make these decisions for themselves, and make them according to their personal integrity (whatever that looks like for the individual and their own priorities).

      • says

        YES. I wholeheartedly agree with helping “people become more adept and informed consumers.” I’m with you: I can’t NOT read labels. It started with a celiac diagnosis for myself and one of my sons, 9+ years ago — I HAD to be a label-reader. It got to the point where if I pulled something down from the shelf and it had a list of ingredients as long as my index finger, I’d just put it back. There had to be SOMETHING in there that was to our detriment, one way or another.

        One of the things that I love about your blog is that it helps me become MORE of what I already am. I have a few friends IRL who are health-minded. But, most don’t take it to the extent I do, and most are happy to eat healthy-ish. I am taking things in baby steps, I guess. It’s my goal to have a “continual quality improvement” with my diet, and that of my family, and I take things on as they seem do-able. I find that if I try to change too many things too quickly, the changes don’t stick. But, if I take on a new thing or two and really concentrate until that is down pat before moving on to a new area, then the change is long-lasting.

        Hope that makes sense.

        I do wonder, though… Perhaps you’ve posted on this elsewhere, but my youngest daughter is severely allergic to all palm products — coconut, date, etc. The oils, the fruit, both in the body and ON the body. That really restricts what fats we can use, because I try to minimize having to make one product for her, and another product for the rest of the family members. I primarily use animal fats and olive oil, with the occasional use of (gasp!) canola oil. Any other suggestions you may have for healthier fats?

  5. says

    This is great! I was very excited to see that brands were coming out with Olive Oil based mayo…but lo and behold of course they still use soy or canola for the majority of it. I was SO frustrated! Now I make my own and it’s good but I am going to try your recommendation for the Wilderness brand. I didn’t think an actual “good” one existed!! Yay!

  6. Kim says

    My problem is that I haven’t found a homemade mayo that tastes like Hellman’s or Kraft, which I know are terrible for me, but it’s been the one area I haven’t been able to switch to something healthier. And I eat mayo everyday, so I know I need to do something about it, but I haven’t liked the homemade mayos I’ve made, I think because of the olive oil flavor, which I normally like. I will try the Wilderness Family though.

    • Karen says

      Use all coconut oil instead.of that olive oil taste.
      I just whipped up a batch.
      Seasoned with salt, greek seasonings and cayenne pepper.
      A splash of white basamic vinegar after it all came to 1 cup volume
      Taste and add more seasoning to suit your taste.
      It was awesome.
      With all coconut oil it gets very thick in fridge.

  7. SaraBeth says

    I was particularly interested in this post because I just bought a jar of this mayonnaise. Since being converted to the Weston Price philosophy 7 years ago, I only recently and reluctantly gave up MIracle Whip (and if you were raised in the ’60s you know what I’m dealing with – tuna fish sandwiches just aren’t the same). I’ve tried several jars of the Wilderness Family Naturals mayonnaise, and I’m sorry, there’s just something unpleasant about it. This Spectrum “A Tad of Olive Oil” mayo isn’t perfect, and I agree with your objections, but for a commercial product it’s pretty darn acceptable – for a former MIracle Whip gal anyway.

    • KristenM says

      I’ve never been a Miracle Whip gal. But I have always had a thing for Hellman’s “REAL Mayo” (isn’t that what it’s called?).

      So, maybe that’s why I absolutely LOVE the Wilderness Family Naturals Mayo and you don’t. Perhaps it’s more of a Hellman’s tasting mayo instead of a Miracle Whip one?

  8. Colleen says

    I was just looking at this mayonnaise at Whole Foods and rejected it for the same reason you did – canola and soy oils – YUCK!!!!! How do they get away with calling it Olive Oil Mayonnaise when there isn’t even any oliv oil in it????? Isn’t that false advertising????

    BTW – I ended up making my own with pastured eggs, coconut oil, olive oil, raw honey, etc. It’s so yummy!

  9. Nicole K. says

    I am so pleased that I am not alone in my quest for a “good” mayo. Like other posters, I was turned off by ALL the brands and their attempts to sell a healthy-sounding Mayo that really isn’t. After shopping for mayo this week and coming home empty-handed, I did a search for better options and found this blot post. While I enjoy mayo on an occasional turkey sandwich, and as much as I enjoy making my own everything, I’m realizing this condiment is one my family might do without. Its not worth eating the commercially available organic ones, nor worth ordering it from out state.
    It does beg asking , however, why only one company sees a market for a true olive oil mayo.

  10. Adina says

    I started making coconut oil mayonnaise so incredibly good! Only problem I like it so much I eat it up before I make another batch. I keep my own hens so I always have great eggs but coconut oil mayo should be the new thing. I used to make olive oil mayo and it was ok in salads and stuff but my husband didn’t care for the strong flavor. Once the coconut oil is emulsified it does not re-solidify. I melt the oil gently on low then make it like you would with any liquid oil. Amazing I swear I’ll never eat any other kind.

  11. JMR says

    When I make my own mayo, it only emulsifies about every 5th time I make a batch. I’ve tried making it by hand, in the food processor, and with a hand blender. I get the same spotty results with all methods. So I buy mayo instead of throwing out batch after batch of expensive oil/eggs. I buy Delouis Fils, a “good” choice in the WAPF shopping guide for an insane $6 per 9 oz jar. I rarely use mayo anymore. I’ll give your recommendation a try.

  12. Melissa says

    I called Wilderness Family Naturals and they mayo is NOT gluten free because the vinegar they use is derived from rye I was told. Are there any mayo options that are gluten free?

  13. Cam says

    Many thanks for this informative article from a kindred spirit in food label reading and ingredient awareness (and mayo lover.)

  14. Karen says

    This article really opened my eyes. I am NOT one to make my own…. would not use it enough. Still, a lot of what I like to eat goes SO good with a dolop of mayo. So I went STRAIGHT to the Wilderness Family Naturals to get a jar but they are completely out. Anyone know why?

    • KristenM says

      It’s one of their more popular items, so they have a hard time making enough to keep up with demand. Don’t worry! It’ll be back soon. Too bad they don’t let you backorder it.

  15. a. says

    thanks for posting this! i have one comment to make on this product. but before that, i’ll add my disclaimers: i am also a “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” type. i love mayo but i actually use a very small amount compared to the other fats/oils i eat (mainly coco oil, ghee/butter, fish oil supps + fish), and since i believe a 1:1 omega-6/omega-3 is ok – i eat trader joe’s organic mayo, which has expeller pressed soybean oil. which, by the way, is DELICIOUS – it is so lemony and tangy, and also, i gotta admit, i do like the flavor of the soybean oil… and also, in the realm of bad oils, soybean is still better than canola…. good > perfect, right? 😉

    ok so – my comment on this mayo. before settling on tj’s organic mayo, i tried this one out. my ideal is to find a mayo made only w/ EVOO. i knew this wasn’t (i’m a label-reader from way back) but since good > perfect i was willing to make the compromise. well, i only ate a few spoonfuls from the jar before eventually throwing the whole thing out (about which i felt awful, but… ugh) because it was… SWEET! it was disgusting. i couldn’t believe what i was tasting. the honey is somewhat up there on the ingredient list, even though three tangy items come after it. now, perhaps some people like that in their mayo, but me, i like it savory – like a best foods/hellman’s mayo. anyway, i’m rambling – but, it just boggles my mind that they got almost there with making a mayo out of olive oil, but not only screwed up with actually using mainly canola and soy, but also, making it super-sweet, which i don’t tend to think would appeal to the health-conscious market you’d think they’re attempting to target w/ this product.

    geez. if only they’d go whole hog and just make it out of olive oil. and also, leave out the honey.

  16. says

    So glad I found this wonderful sight. I look forward to more. Your interest is right in line with my own passions which are being put into a few books I’m writing, one of food labelling. Your site is a great resource!
    Dr. Thalia Charney, ND

  17. Lisa says

    You say,
    “Spectrum is a reputable brand. Organic certification means the oil is not made from genetically-modified crops. And olive oil = heart healthy. What’s not to love?”

    This is not true. Research the loopholes the laws governing organic foods left gaping…*feigns shock* What? MORE government legislation concerning the food we eat isn’t solving ALL our problems and taking the mystery out of food labels?!?

  18. says

    I needed a mayonnaise to recommend to anyone who doesn’t want to make their own. Thank you for the thorough explanation of the trouble with canola oil too.

    Keep up the great writing.

  19. jackie says

    It is produced by Hain Celestial. There’s your verdict right there. Nothing sold by that company is worth eating. They are purveyors of faux health foods.

  20. jackie says

    I also would like to find a non-canola mayo but have concerns about the heating methods used on olive oils. If the company is overheating the olive oil, the health benefits would be destroyed.
    PS – I really like this site! Glad I found it.

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