Regions Central Virginia

Sabra Dipping Co. wants to define hummus

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Sabra Dipping Co. wants to help the Food and Drug Administration come up with a definition of hummus.

The White Plains, N.Y.-based company, which has operations in Chesterfield County, has filed a citizen's petition with the FDA to establish a “standard of identity” for hummus under Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

According to the petition, hummus must be comprised (by weight, besides water) predominately of chickpeas, and must be no less than 5 percent tahini.

Sabra defines hummus as, "the semisolid food prepared from mixing cooked, dehydrated, or dried chickpeas and tahini with one or more optional ingredients," some of which are specified in the 11-page petition.

"A food item that is not made of chickpeas… is not hummus," Ronen Zohar, Sabra's CEO, said in a statement. "It is a testament to the popularity of hummus that companies are interested in labeling a variety of dips and spreads as 'hummus.'  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 wide range of products, including peanut butter, ketchup, mayonnaise, and cream cheese.

"As the popularity of hummus has soared in the United States over the past decade, the name has been applied to items consisting primarily of other ingredients," Tulin Tuzel, Sabra’s chief technology officer.  "From black beans and white beans to lentils, soybeans, and navy beans, everyone wants to call their dip 'hummus.' This truly does cause confusion for retailers and consumers in what is still an emerging food category. Twenty five percent of American homes purchase hummus regularly and we are pleased to drive this request for standardization. It will benefit the entire category."

Sabra was formed as a U.S./Canadian joint venture between Strauss Group and PepsiCo.

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