Currently, eight different allergens must be declared on all packaged foods.
After fielding requests to improve on current practices of labeling food allergens, the Food and Drug Administration took first steps this Monday to add sesame to the list of ingredients that must be highlighted.
Americans are becoming allergic to sesame seeds in growing numbers, according to this report from The Hill, but sesame products are not among the list of 8 major allergens that are already regulated.
“Unfortunately, we’re beginning to see evidence that sesame allergies may be a growing concern in the U.S.,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. “A handful of studies, for example, suggest that the prevalence of sesame allergies in the US is more than 0.1 percent, on par with allergies to soy and fish."
"Fear of not knowing whether a food contains sesame may lead some people to unnecessarily limit their diets to avoid possible exposure," Gottlieb continues.
Currently, federal agencies regulate food packaging for items containing shellfish, fish, milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. The agency is currently asking medical professionals, researchers, industry professionals, and consumers for input before they make any final decision—information on how to submit your input can be found here.
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“Gaining a better understanding of the state of the science on food allergies and how these allergens impact consumers, particularly sesame allergies, is an important and necessary first step toward our consideration of new policies that could require labeling for sesame allergens,” the FDA's statement reads.
Lisa Gable, CEO of the nonprofit group Food Allergy Research and Education, told CNN that more than 300,000 Americans are affected by severe sesame allergies. Gable says that allergic reactions to sesame, including byproducts like sesame oil, can range from hives to anaphylaxis.
"The consensus of both doctors and advocacy groups that support people with food allergies is that sesame is growing into being a national problem and should absolutely be added as one of the allergens to be disclosed on labeling," she said. "People with life-threatening food allergies and the family and friends that support them are very careful to read labels...They need to see what the plain English is."