If Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) and U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) have their way, sesame will be added to the current list of major food allergens in the U.S.

Giving sesame major allergen status will put it under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) guidelines, assuring that sesame in food products will be declared on ingredient labels.

Worldwide, allergy to sesame has substantially increased over the past 20 years. The actual incidence in the U.S. is unknown, but estimates are that 1 in 1,000 Americans react to sesame, a potent allergen that can trigger severe symptoms, including anaphylaxis.

Sesame, or Sesamum Indicum, is becoming an increasingly popular ingredient in Western foods, and has long been a staple in a variety of ethnic cuisine. The food industry uses sesame as seeds, pastes, and oils. This versatility promotes the liberal use of sesame, and creates a danger for allergic individuals. Sesame also:

  • Is found in some non-sesame products, typically breads and bagels, either as an ingredient, or because of cross-contamination during manufacture.
  • Is an oil used in skin care products such as ointments, lotions, soaps, and in some cosmetics.
  • Has many names including Anjonjoli, Benne, Til (or Teel), Gingelly, Tahini, Halvah, and Simsin.
  • Is used as an unrefined oil in Asian foods, marinades, salad dressings, barbecue and other sauces. (Being unrefined, the oil is hazardous to allergic individuals.)

It’s easy to see that making sesame the ninth major allergen in the U.S., and having it declared plainly on ingredient labels, would make food safety easier for people who are allergic.

“After passing landmark legislation a decade ago to label the eight main food allergies in plain language, I share FARE’s concerns that the FDA isn’t adapting to the risks to hundreds of thousands of Americans who are allergic to sesame and sesame derivatives. The FDA should apply this vital policy to changing trends over time so that the public can easily identify common allergens in food,” ~ Rep. Nita Lowey

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