USA – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has launched an investigation into the prevalence and severity of sesame allergies in the United States with a possible consideration for a requirement to label sesame as an allergen on packaged foods.
Sesame is not required to be disclosed as an allergen, and in some circumstances, sesame may be exempt from being listed by name in the ingredient statement on food packages.
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) requires that a food containing a major food allergen declare the source of the allergen.
According to FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb, sesame allergies may be a growing concern in the US with studies showing that the prevalence of sesame allergies in the U.S. is more than 0.1%, on par with allergies to soy and fish.
“Food allergies have touched the lives of most of us.
Thousands of Americans experience life-threatening, food-related reactions each year, and an estimated 20 people die from them annually.
In some cases, such reactions occur despite a careful reading of packaged food labels by conscientious consumers.
To me, that’s unacceptable. The FDA is committed to advancing our efforts to help ensure that Americans have access to the information they need about common allergens in packaged foods.
In particular, the undeclared presence of allergens in foods – the leading reason for food recalls – continues to be a significant public health issue and an area of active policy consideration by the agency,” said Gottlieb.
In addition to the fact that sesame may be exempt from being listed by name in the ingredient statement on food packages, it may also hide under natural flavors, spices or seasonings on a food label.
Shoppers may not be aware of sesame presence also given that manufacturers use different names to describe sesame for example gingelly, sim sim, sesamol, benne or til.
Such concerns could be one of the factors considered by FDA in its request for information that would see addition of sesame to its list of allergens.
In 2014, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CPI) and others petitioned to the FDA for sesame to be added to the major allergen list.
According to CPI, 300,000 to 500,000 people in the U.S. have a sesame allergy and as little as 100 mg of sesame can trigger a reaction in some people.
Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union already require sesame to be labelled as an allergen on food products.
Eggs, milk, fish, tree nuts, shellfish, peanuts, wheat and soybeans are the eight major food allergens that FDA requires to be listed on food packages.