Sesame allergy affects hundreds of thousands of Americans, and can cause severe, even life-threatening reactions. Yet the FDA does not require sesame labeling as it does for other allergens. CSPI is working to win transparent national labeling for sesame.
FDA is Considering Requiring Sesame Allergen Labeling!
More than 300,000 people in the United States suffer from sesame allergy, which is ranked 9th in prevalence among the most commonly diagnosed food allergies, after peanuts, milk, shellfish, tree nuts, eggs, wheat, soy, and finfish (the “Big Eight”). For many people with sesame allergy, accidental exposure poses potentially deadly risks: Sesame ranks higher than some of the Big Eight allergens in terms of severity, and a greater fraction of adults with sesame allergy report an emergency room visit for food allergy in the past year than adults with any other major food allergy.
Despite its health impact, sesame is not covered by the same public health protections as allergens in the Big Eight. While the FDA requires Big Eight allergens be declared on packaging using common names, sesame ingredients can be hidden as “spices” or “natural flavorings,” or listed under unfamiliar names such as tahini, gingelly, or benne. Similarly, efforts to address allergen cross-contact risks have focused on the Big Eight, bypassing sesame. To address this, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) joined allergy experts in filing a citizen petition with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014, urging the agency to require that sesame be clearly declared in foods in the same manner as other major allergens.
Resource: Sesame Allergy Labeling Quick Facts
Our Sesame Work
- Our December 2018 comment to the FDA on sesame labeling offers new evidence and highlights FDA’s legal authority for sesame labeling.
- Our April 2018 Seeds of Change report shows the food industry is now split on disclosing sesame and provides the latest data on sesame allergy prevalence and severity.
- CSPI welcomes the 2018 Food Labeling Modernization Act (FLMA), a bill to improve food labeling, including mandatory labeling for sesame and labeling for all major allergens in restaurants.
- Our 2015 Open Sesame report shows how some major manufacturers refuse to disclose sesame, even when asked.
- Our 2014 Petition to the FDA asks the agency to disclose sesame on food labels in the same manner as other major allergens.