Hummus, Tahini and Panic

Two weeks ago, a series of packaged Hummus products were recalled from supermarkets all over the UK. A routine check found them to be contaminated with salmonella. No illnesses were reported, but there was panic on the streets of London. Or so we heard.

This story brought to attention the growing popularity of hummus in Britain. The UK today is a fast growing market for hummus, and so is the US.

Just think of the consequences of such a contamination if it happened in one of the Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia. Well, it didn’t. But 26 million Saudis thought it had.

At the same time the Brits got panicked about their hummus, the Saudi newspapers reported that most of the Tahini products in the country contain a carcinogenic ingredient called “tio2″.

Tahini – in case you didn’t know – is a sesame seed paste, which is the second most important ingredient of hummus, after chickpeas. Saudis eat lots of both. It took the SFDA (Saudi Food & Drug Authority) some time until they posted this formal announcement which confirmed their initial claim: the suspicious substance does not cause cancer.

Tio2 (Titanium dioxide), also known as E171, is a perfectly safe color additive, commonly used in drugs (all kinds of white pills), cosmetics and foods. There is a good chance of finding it in your toothpaste, your shampoo (if it’s white), and your coffee whitener as well.

The American FDA, for example, lists it with the safest sources for pigments, alongside some fruits. Studies had found it to be safe in dosages 300 times greater than those used in Tehini.

So of course this was a hoax – and not a new one, by the way. I once got a SPAM massage with a warning about Tio2. I wonder if the Saudis got it too.

Comments

2 Responses to “Hummus, Tahini and Panic”

  1. Eli on March 13th, 2007 11:02 pm

    Je ne sais pas si c’est toi qui a laisse un message sur mon blog, de toute facon, beatsla’ha !!! Et surveilles ton poids, j’imagines que vu les photos, tu dois etre un grand gourmant toi lol
    Kol touv lekoulam

  2. toh on January 9th, 2008 9:06 pm

    On the other hand, it (TiO2) is no more than a colorant, and thus unnecessary in what’s otherwise a pretty unadulterated food. 300 times isn’t a particularly impressive safety margin, and titanium-free tahini is available – possibly cheaper, since titanium isn’t free.

    Eat what you need.

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