Food Policy

Hummus Among Us

Food protectionism

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Is that hummus you're eating real hummus?

If you find the question perplexing, perhaps the hummus manufacturer Sabra can help you out. The Mediterranean food company, partly owned by the soda giant PepsiCo, is petitioning the Food and Drug Administration to regulate when a spreadable dip may identify itself as hummus.

In an 11-page petition, the company describes what standards it thinks Sabra's competitors should follow if they want to claim their products as hummus. The suggestions include rules that hummus be made primarily of chickpeas (no lentils!) and contain no less than 5 percent tahini.

For those who think such an approach is absurd, unnecessary, and-given the existence of ingredient labels-redundant, Sabra's petition points out that the agency has already established standards on what foods may be called peanut butter, ketchup, and mayonnaise.