Why You'll See Sesame Called Out on Food Labels Soon

With millions of Americans allergic to sesame, this is a big deal.

June 08, 2021

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Photo by: Westend61

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With millions of Americans allergic to sesame seeds, new food labeling laws are now mandating sesame seeds be listed on labels. On April 23, 2021 sesame was declared as a ninth major food allergen according to the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act. Find out what you’ll be seeing on upcoming labels to keep those who are allergic to sesame seeds safe.

In 2004 Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) in order to help protect folks with food allergies and other food hypersensitivities. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) already had enforced regulations requiring companies to list ingredients on packaged foods and beverages, certain foods or substances that cause allergies or other hypersensitivity reactions were then required more specific labeling requirements. The law identified eight foods that are responsible for 90% of the allergies. These include milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.

Sesame seed or sesame oil was not included in the initial food labelling law in 2004 because “it was unclear just how many Americans were allergic to it compared to the top eight allergens at the time,” explains Lisa Gable, CEO at Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). Since then, however, Gable says that numerous studies have been conducted including a landmark study by Dr. Ruchi Gupta in 2019 that nearly 1.6 million Americans were allergic to sesame. Like other major allergens, an allergic individual's response to consuming sesame, accidentally or otherwise, can be anaphylasix or death.

“With [the FASTER Act], America joins other countries like Canada, the 27 countries of the European Union, Australia and New Zealand in labeling sesame and global food manufacturers have been labeling for sesame for a long time,” explains Gable. All forms of sesame will need to be labeled.

There are many sources of sesame that consumers may or may not be familiar with including tahini or hummus which contain sesame. Some more hidden sources can be candy corn, protein bars, salad dressing and ice cream, says Gable. Adding sesame to food labels will be helpful and even life-saving for the nearly 1.6 million children and adults, who are allergic to sesame and sesame oil. The changes will become effective on January 1, 2023.

Gable also notes that it is important to always read the food labels, and if you have any questions or concerns, you should contact the food manufacturer to determine if the food contains any form of sesame.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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