Sesame was recently recognized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as the 9th major allergen in the United States.
That means companies must now clearly label products that contain sesame seeds.
However, some businesses have discovered a gap in the labeling laws that enables them to keep using sesame in their products without disclosing it on the packaging.
This has raised concerns among experts who warn that sesame seeds can be as dangerous for people with allergies as severe as other major allergens like peanuts and tree nuts.
Sesame is commonly found in a variety of products, from bagels and crackers to hummus and tahini.
Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist, sesame can cause severe, even life-threatening reactions in some highly allergic individuals. It emphasizes the importance of proper labeling of products containing sesame seeds to protect them.
The FDA has stated that it is aware of this issue and is taking steps to address it.
To prevent businesses from getting around the labeling laws and to enable people with sesame allergies to make educated decisions about the products they consume, some experts contend that more needs to be done.
Put in the Label
In the meantime, people with sesame allergies and their caregivers are encouraged to read ingredient labels carefully and contact the manufacturer directly if they have any concerns about the sesame content in a product.
It’s also recommended to carry an epinephrine auto-injector, in case of accidental sesame exposure.
It’s imperative that companies and the government take this newly recognized allergen seriously and take steps to protect those with sesame allergies.
As the number of people affected by sesame allergy is rising, this issue needs to be handled promptly to prevent any severe reactions.
In April 2021, Congress passed the FASTER Act (Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research) unanimously which listed sesame to the FDA’s list of major food allergens. This act will be effective starting January 1st 2023, which means that food manufacturers will be required to clearly label sesame in their products by then.
The FASTER Act is seen as a significant step forward in addressing the problem of sesame allergies, which have been on the rise in recent years.
The act ensures that individuals with sesame allergies have the important information to make informed choices about the products they consume, and to avoid potential life-threatening reactions to sesame. The act also directs funding to research on sesame allergies and to education efforts to help individuals manage their allergies.
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The Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) organization said an estimated 1.6 million Americans suffer from sesame allergies. Despite this significant number, the issue has long gone unrecognized.
However, with the FDA and government now backing FARE’s efforts, there is a legal window of time for brands to comply with labeling requirements for products containing sesame.
Linde expressed his expectation that U.S. brands and manufacturers would respect the law and customer sensitivity to sesame.
However, some major food brands and bread suppliers have reportedly skipped over legal accommodations as the January 1 deadline approached.
Instead of ascertaining the removal of all traces of sesame from products in the market, a few major food brands like Wendy’s, Olive Garden and Chick-fil-A have put more sesame to their menu items.
This serves as an “economic shortcut” for brands to explicitly label that there is sesame in their products, instead of pushing and funding clean manufacturing lines, according to Linde.
This move not only puts sesame-allergic individuals at risk, but also undermines the efforts of FARE and other organizations to raise awareness about sesame allergies and advocate for stricter labeling laws.
Allergies from Food
Sesame allergies can cause severe reactions, and with the rising number of cases, it is important for brands and manufacturers to take the necessary steps to keep the safety of their customers.
FARE, along with the government, is working to promote safer food options for those suffering from sesame allergies, and it is essential that brands comply with the regulations set in place to protect them.
As consumers, it is also important to be vigilant when purchasing food products and check the labels for any potential allergen, including sesame. With the right information, consumers can make informed decisions and protect themselves and their loved ones from sesame allergies.
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Backlash for Adding Sesame
Recently, FARE has raised concern over major food brands such as Olive Garden, Wendy’s and Chick-fil-A for their decision to add sesame to their menu items instead of ensuring its removal.
This move comes despite the legal window of time for brands to comply with labeling requirements for products containing sesame and the recognition that some 1.6 million Americans suffer with allergies.
In a statement to Fox News Digital, Olive Garden said its suppliers have put less than 2% more sesame flour to their breadsticks because of “the potential for cross-contamination at the bakery.”
Wendy’s has also allegedly added sesame flour to its buns, which the brand says is a “frequently” evolving menu.
Chick-fil-A stated that the brand “did not want” a recipe alteration for sesame flour to be put to its white and multi-grain brioche buns, but its bread suppliers found it necessary to do so.
Linde suggests that the decision to add sesame symbolizes as an “economic shortcut” for brands to explicitly list that there is sesame in their products, rather than pushing and funding clean manufacturing lines.
He also noted that although sesame is most often found as an ingredient in baked goods like cookies, crackers, and breads, the baking industry is a major player in adding sesame to products.
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