FDA names sesame as ninth major food allergen

Sesame seeds in a bowl.
Sesame seeds in a bowl. Photo credit Getty Images

The US Food and Drug Administration has updated its list of major food allergens defined by law, and joining milk, eggs, peanuts, and other foods already on the list is sesame.

The FDA’s update to the list, which went into effect on Jan. 1, comes as a result of the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research Act, or FASTER Act.

The decision to add sesame seeds to the list was considered by the agency for several years, as adding to it is not common. In total, there are nine food allergens on the list, with the other five being crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, fish, wheat, and soybeans.

With sesame being named a major food allergen, foods containing it are now subject to specific food allergen and regulatory requirements. This includes laws regarding labeling and manufacturing of foods.

Part of the FDA’s role is to inspect and sample food products to ensure that any potential food allergens are labeled and that facilities are preventing cross contamination.

In a study presented at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, it was reported that 0.2% of children and adults in the US are allergic to sesame, making it the ninth most common food allergy in the US.

Jason Linde, the senior vice president of government and community affairs for Food Allergy Research and Education, shared during an event that this will have a huge impact for Americans who suffer from sesame allergies.

“What it means is, for the 1.6 million Americans with life-threatening sesame allergy, that life gets better starting Jan. 1, 2023,” Linde said, CNN reported.

He went on to say that sesame is in dozens of ingredients but is not always listed, often causing issues for those who are allergic.

“For years, [people] with a life-threatening sesame allergy would have to look at the back of the label, call the manufacturer and try to figure it out,” Linde said. “If it was included, it was just included as a natural spice or flavor.”

While the announcement is bi for those in the allergy community, the FDA shared an statement last month reminding consumers that products already on shelves will not be updated with new labeling, meaning caution is still necessary.

“We remind consumers that foods already in interstate commerce before 2023, including those on retail shelves, do not need to be removed from the marketplace or relabeled to declare sesame as an allergen,” the FDA said in a Dec. 15 statement. “Depending on shelf life, some food products may not have allergen labeling for sesame on the effective date. Consumers should check with the manufacturer if they are not sure whether a food product contains sesame.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images