The US Food and Drug Administration is recommending food manufacturers voluntarily list sesame as an ingredient on food labels.
The guidance is not a requirement and is intended to help people who are allergic to sesame identify foods that may contain the seed, the agency said.
“Many Americans are allergic or sensitive to sesame, and they need the ability to quickly identify products that might contain sesame,” Susan Mayne, the director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in a statement.
Under current FDA regulations, sesame must be declared on a label if whole seeds are used as an ingredient, but labeling is not required when it’s used as a flavor or in a spice blend.
It’s also not required for a product such as tahini, which is made from ground sesame seed paste. Some consumers are not aware that tahini is made from sesame seeds, the agency said.
“In these instances, sesame may not be declared by name in the ingredient list on a product’s label.
We are encouraging food manufacturers to voluntarily list sesame as an ingredient whenever a product has been made with sesame,” Mayne said.
FDA recommends manufacturers include sesame as ingredient on food labels https://t.co/oWsQ5KSFF9— Fulvio Meloni (@MeloniFulvio) November 11, 2020
Under federal law, eight products are listed as “major food allergens” and must be included on food labels.
They are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.
The FDA has been reviewing whether to include sesame seeds on the list for several years, but for now is only suggesting manufacturers voluntarily include it on labels where appropriate.
In light of the issued guidance, some food allergist experts have contended that a voluntary recommendation isn’t good enough.
“On behalf of the 32 million Americans who suffer from life-threatening food allergies, and the 1.5 million Americans allergic to sesame, FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) is disappointed in the FDA’s proposed guidance to industry,” said Lisa Gable, the organization’s chief executive officer, in a statement.
“While the guidance is a step in the right direction, sesame needs to be recognized as the ninth top allergen and it must be labeled.
“The conviction that Americans “deserve to know what is in the food they eat and buy” is why FARE has been working to pass the FASTER (Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education & Research) Act, the organization said in a post on Twitter.
Intended to improve the safety of people with food allergies and expand research for new treatments, the bill, if passed, would update allergen labeling laws to include sesame.
The bill would also require the US government to analyze “the most promising research opportunities to help scientists develop more effective treatments and, ultimately, a cure for food allergies,” FARE’s website says.
The bill has been introduced in both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate.
The FDA guidance is “totally bogus because sesame is much more of a problem,” said Dr. Robert Eitches, an allergist and immunologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
“Voluntary is a door to make something not necessary to do.”