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An FDA official standard for Hummus?

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.

מדפי חומוס בסופר אמריקני

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.

4 Comments on An FDA official standard for Hummus?

  1. “Sabra” is sour (citric acid), greasy (due, if memory serves, to canola oil), disgusting swill that makes me want to scream at purchasers “YOU’RE BEING HAD.” And if their motives are so semantically pure, why don’t they practice what they preach, given that “hummus,” unqualified by “b’tahini,” merely means “chickpeas?” I have no doubt that there’s a corporate agenda here. And I don’t think it’s the FDA’s job to police hummus (bad enough that they dictate my relationship with raw dairy products). There are plenty of small groceries here in NYC, especially in Brooklyn, that produce their own product for sale, virtually all of it superior to Sabra. They already have to deal with health inspectors; why should they have to worry about the FDA breathing down their necks to ensure that they meet some arbitrary “tahini standard?”

  2. BOK_in_Larksville // May 28, 2014 at 12:09 pm // Reply

    Leave it to corporate greed to screw up something tasty and simple.. The key here is to always make your own, and not to buy crap!! Read the ingredient lists on food labels, not the front of the label..

  3. We in Hummus Amamamusi, we are adding 12% tahini, and we think that is best solution, this recipe was developed based on the perfect hummus recipe from this blog :- ), please come and taste!

  4. Sabra was good for a a time until they went commercial.. They were were one of the few that didn’t use lemon juice, then some of their better flavours disappeared (like the tahini hummus, which had extra tahini, no citric acid or lemon juice and was pure heaven). Once they went downhill, I went back to making my own.

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