It’s Time to Label Sesame A Major Allergen

 

For people with food allergies, accurate food labels are important. Ingredient labels became clearer when the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act went into effect in 2006 – at least for those allergic to one of the top eight major food allergens. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and soybeans as major food allergens.

Sesame is not on that list. In the U.S., it is not disclosed on all food ingredient labels. But sesame is proving to be a prevalent food allergen across the world.

Sesame can be hidden on food ingredient labels as “spices” or “natural foods.” It can also be listed under an unusual name such as “tahini” or “benne.” This creates challenges for those with sesame allergies.

We want sesame to be clearly listed on all food ingredient labels.

In 2014, we began petitioning the FDA to consider sesame as a major food allergen in the U.S. In 2016, the National Academy of Medicine reported that sesame allergy appears to be as prevalent as the eight major food allergens. Food labels in the European Union, Australia and Canada now clearly list sesame.

Nothing has changed in the U.S.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA - KFA is a division of AAFA) and nine other organizations have submitted a letter advocating for allergen labeling for sesame to FDA's docket, "Sesame as an Allergen in Foods." You can do the same by submitting your own personal comments to the docket, adding to the more than 1,900 comments already submitted.

Please send your personal comments to the official request for information (RFI) on “Sesame as an Allergen in Foods” by Dec. 31, 2018. Please send your comments even if you have already taken our survey or reported an adverse event to the FDA. This is a separate effort from our survey and the adverse event reporting system.

If you have not had a serious reaction to sesame, do you still struggle to manage your sesame allergy due to a lack of clear labeling? If so, also send your comments to the RFI. Include the information below based on your own experience. Also add any other information you think the FDA should hear about your experience with sesame labeling.

  1. Give examples of products or product categories that contain sesame as a spice, flavor, color or additive and that do not list “sesame” on the product labeling.
  2. Give examples of products or product categories other than “spices” that contain sesame in one of the listed ingredients, but the common or usual name of that ingredient does not list “sesame” specifically on the product labeling. Please provide a copy of the labeling, if possible.
  3. Give examples of food products or product categories where you have found sesame because of cross-contact.
  4. How much time do you think you spend contacting manufacturers for information about sesame in their products?

Have you or your child had a reaction to sesame?

You can answer our adverse event survey and submit a comment to FDA’s new request for information.

Haven’t had a reaction, but want to comment on the burden of handling sesame allergy without good labeling?

You can send a comment to the FDA’s request for information.

It’s time the top eight become the top nine; for FDA to include sesame as a major food allergen; and for sesame to be clearly disclosed on food labels. We will continue advocating for those with sesame allergies until this happens.

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