We’re not too fond of the term “fake news” or the person who invented it, but it’s a pretty decent description to the recent “Hummus Crisis”. Here’s why.
Earlier this week the British media gave broad coverage to what it called “a Hummus Crisis”, no less. It started with the Daily Mail and shortly after continued with items on The Telegraph, Mirror, Huffington Post UK, Independent and many others.
Later on there were followups in the US and even some Arab and Israeli media. Everybody copied each other and quoted The Grocer‘s (a British magazine dedicated to grocery sales) report about a 29% increase in Hummus prices (from £1.14 to £1.47 for an average 310g package of hummus). The alleged reason for the crisis: a global shortage of chickpeas.
The sharp eyed readers who followed the links, may have realized there were some strange things about this story. For instance: the original item on The Grocer was published on January 12th. Two weeks is certainly a long time for a global crisis to make its way to mass media.
When we went over the news items of several news sites, we couldn’t help thinking that it looks as if they just recycled the story with no fact checking. One has laconically added that “some hummus manufacturers have blamed supermarkets for the price rise”.
Technically, chickpea prices did rise briefly to over $1000 a ton last week, but shortly after they sank back to the $850-900 range. And true, they did change rapidly over the past year, but mostly tumbled since the record high $1300/ton price tag at the beginning of April 2017. There’s also a new 30% import tax on chickpeas in India, which should probably have a cooling effect on the global chickpea sales.
More importantly: chickpeas aren’t the most expensive ingredient in hummus, and their wholesale prices shouldn’t have that much of an effect over hummus prices to the end customer.
A crisis in journalism, not hummus
A simple calculation proves that we’re dealing with “fake news”: at it’s peak, a ton of chickpeas was sold for $1300, or $1.3 for a kilogram (2.27 pounds). A store bought hummus typically contains 30-40% chickpeas, but for the sake of the argument let’s say it’s 50%.
A 310g package of hummus wouldn’t contain more than 155g of chickpeas, which at its peak price costs some 20 cents or 14 pennies (0.14 GBP).
It’s easy to conclude this could not be where the 33p (0.33 GBP) price increase from £1.14 to £1.44 came from.
That’s a simple calculation any reporter could do, and the fact that no one did is another sad example of the poor state of journalism.