When Is Hummus Not Hummus? When Regulators Say So.
What makes hummus, hummus? Sabra is pushing the Food and Drug Administration to find out.
The largest hummus producer in the U.S. is tired of non-chickpea-heavy knockoffs passing themselves off as hummus. So, Sabra is petitioning the FDA to define hummus as predominantly comprised of chickpeas and no less than 5 percent tahini.
"A food item that is not made of chickpeas… is not hummus," said Ronen Zohar, Sabra's CEO, in a statement. "As the category leader, we have introduced hummus to the market; we are driving continued adoption rates and we do see it as our responsibility to support the growing community of hummus lovers by protecting the purity of hummus in the marketplace."
The FDA has established standards of identity for a range of other popular U.S. condiments and dips, including peanut butter, ketchup, mayonnaise and cream cheese. However, it often takes a boost in popularity and mainstream acceptance for the government to get involved in defining what makes a snack a snack.
Another key player in snack-based government intervention is certain producers' hopes to keep competitors with "inauthentic" products out of the game. After a legal dispute with Fage yogurt, a British court ruled that Chobani could not label its products "Greek yogurt" in the U.K., because its yogurt is made in the U.S., unlike Fage yogurt. The EU has also gotten involved in food identity battles, as European trade officials have argued that cheese labels such as Gorgonzola, Parmesan and Feta should be reserved for European use.
Kate Taylor is a reporter at Business Insider. She was previously a reporter at Entrepreneur. Get in touch with tips and feedback on Twitter at @Kate_H_Taylor.