Garbanzo purity: Big Hummus lobbies for hummus regulation

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Food and Drink,Timothy P. Carney,Lobbying,FDA

Sabra Dipping Company makes a decent hummus, and it reportedly controls 60 percent of the soaring U.S. hummus market (being the official hummus of Costco can't hurt).

What to do when you dominate a market? Why, lobby the government for stricter regulations that will keep out new entrants and hurt any competitors who might out-innovate you.

Sabra in February filed a petition with the Food & Drug Administration for stricter rules on what can be labelled "Hummus" -- or, "Hommus," "Hommos," "Humos," or "Houmous."

It must be predominantly chick peas, and at least five percent sesame seed paste. Options allowed include vegetable oil, garlic, acidifying agents, salt, sodium benzoate, spices, sodium bicarbonate, texturizers, buffering agents, and a handful of others.

Sabra is apparently pushing back on the trend of competitors making hummus with so many other beans that the garbanzos get drowned out. "From black beans and white beans to lentils, soybeans, and navy beans," a top Sabra official said in a statement quoted by the Jewish Telegraph Agency, "everyone wants to call their dip 'hummus.'"

This is how to think of much regulation: the tool the dominant incumbent businesses use to keep competition on their terms.

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