Sabra, the Israeli-American manufacturer of packaged hummus, has filed a citizen’s petition with the FDA to establish a standard of identity for hummus. Not a bad idea, but one may wonder what is Sabra’s real motivation.
Sabra Dipping (owned by PepsiCo and Israeli hummus manufacturer Strauss) has asked the FDA to establish an official standard for hummus, in order to assure the quality and nutritional value of hummus products.
In a press release that was sent to the media last week , Sabra claims the market is flooded with hummus imitations, which has little to do with the original paste. The company asked the FDA to make sure that foods will be allowed to be called “hummus” only if they’re made mainly from chickpeas and have at list 5% raw tahini in them.
Great PR work, no doubt, for Sabra and for Hummus as well. And it’s not a totally bad idea, considering the fact that so many Americans think “hummus” is a generic word for pastes or semisolid foods in general.
And true, the FDA already established standards of identity for other popular foods, such as peanut butter, ketchup, mayonnaise, and cream cheese. It’s a good way to make sure there are less hideous foods pretending to be something they aren’t.
One may wonder, though, why did Sabra settle for only 5% tahini, when decent hummus recipes (such as ours) usually include 15-30%.
The sad answer is that Sabra itself probably uses cheap vegetable oils as a substitute for at list some of the tahini – a very common practice, since tahini is by far the most expensive (and nutritious) ingredient in hummus. That’s probably not because they’re mean, of course, but because in a non-regulated market such as this, it’s hard to stay competitive if you don’t use the cheapest ingredients.
Bit if you are an American citizen who happen to love hummus, why don’t you approach the FDA with a citizen’s petition of your own? I would go for a minimum of 20%, but that’s only me.