A. Barton Hinkle on Sabra's Campaign to Get Government to Regulate Hummus


how would you know what this is without government?

Sabra Dipping, whose Chesterfield, Virginia, plant produces millions of tons of hummus each month, is lobbying the Food and Drug Administration to write new rules governing who can claim to make the stuff. In a "citizen petition," Sabra has asked Washington to declare that only certain dipping sauces qualify as hummus, and only they may be labeled as such. Specifically, Sabra wants Washington to forbid the use of the word "hummus" unless the dipping sauce is made out of chickpeas and contains at least 5 percent tahini, or ground sesame seeds. To help federal bureaucrats further understand the profound gravity of the issue, Sabra draws their attention to a variety of imposters, such as a certain "red pepper lentil hummus" (made with lentils) and a certain "fat-free original hummus" (made — gasp! — without tahini). But none of that, writes A. Barton Hinkle, is enough to disguise the fact that the company is simply trying to cement its position as the leading market incumbent by using the government to squash the smaller competition.