Maker of “Tuscan Garden Hummus” Demands Stricter Hummus Labeling Laws

Slate's Culture Blog
May 26 2014 9:58 AM

Maker of “Tuscan Garden Hummus” Demands Stricter Hummus Labeling Laws

184678653-dish-of-hummus-is-seen-at-abu-hassan-restaurant-on
Real hummus.

Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

Sabra Dipping Company, the maker of America’s top-selling hummus, “has filed a citizen's petition with the FDA to establish a standard of identity in the United States for hummus.” If Sabra has its way, a product will be able to bear the label “hummus” only if it’s made mostly of chickpeas and is more than 5 percent tahini. According to Sabra’s “Chief Technology Officer,” Tulin Tuzel, the proliferation of dips containing black beans, white beans, soybeans, and other legumes “truly does cause confusion for retailers and consumers” and besmirches hummus’s good name.

Sabra’s basic hummus is probably the best widely available pre-made hummus (although you are still much better off making your own). However, I find it quite difficult to take Sabra’s indignant campaign to protect “the purity of hummus in the marketplace” seriously. If Sabra really cared about “protecting the purity of hummus,” surely it would not manufacture the following products:

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  • Basil Pesto Hummus
  • Tuscan Garden Hummus
  • Olive Tapenade Hummus
  • Roasted Pine Nut Hummus
  • Chipotle Hummus
  • Spinach and Artichoke Hummus
  • Sun Dried Tomato Hummus
  • Jalapeño Hummus
  • Luscious Lemon Hummus

The last time I checked, olive tapenade is a wholly distinct condiment from hummus, chipotles were invented in Mexico, and Tuscany is not located in the Middle East. As long as I’m nitpicking, traditional hummus contains olive oil, not soybean oil, which is the third ingredient in most of Sabra’s formulations. If Sabra wants preferential treatment from the FDA because it hasn’t made a black bean hummus yet, even as it adulterates its chickpea dip with pasta sauce from Liguria—well, nice try, Sabra, but before you start casting aspersions on your competitors, you might try looking at your own backyard. I think you’ll find a Tuscan garden that needs tending to.

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong. 

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