After several years of review, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is adding sesame seeds to the list of major food and allergens required by law.
The change will take place on January 1, 2023, and comes just a little over a year after the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act (FASTER Act) was signed into law in April 2021, according to an official statement from the FDA.
The result of adding sesame seeds to the major food allergens list will mean foods containing sesame will be subject to specific food allergen regulations and more specific labeling requirements by the FDA.
“What it means is, for the 1.6 million Americans with life-threatening sesame allergy, that life gets better starting January 1, 2023,” Jason Linde, the senior vice president of government and community affairs at Food Allergy Research & Education–a large private funder of food allergy research and helped work to pass the FASTER act bill–told CNN.
Linde explained that sesame is in many food products and wasn’t always listed by name on the packaging. “For years, (people) with a life-threatening sesame allergy would have to look at the back of the label, call the manufacturer and try to figure it out,” he said. “If it was included, it was just included as a natural spice or flavor.”
Linde called the new rule “a huge victory for the food allergy community.”
“We remind consumers that foods already in interstate commerce before 2023, including those on retail shelves, do not need to be removed from the marketplace or relabeled to declare sesame as an allergen,” the FDA reminded manufacturers in its Dec. 15 statement. “Depending on shelf life, some food products may not have allergen labeling for sesame on the effective date. Consumers should check with the manufacturer if they are not sure whether a food product contains sesame.”
Many companies have already started labeling their products to reflect the new allergy warning. But it could take up to three to six months for certain foods, like canned soups, that are branded with the old labels to be sold or removed from shelves.
According to an allergist, immunologist, and attending physician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Dr. Robert Eitches, anyone could be affected by a sesame allergy, regardless of age. Eitches told CNN that an allergic reaction could appear as many symptoms, including coughing, itchy throat, vomiting, diarrhea, a rash, shortness of breath, wheezing, and even drops in blood pressure.
Anyone unsure if they are sensitive or allergic to sesame should talk to their primary care physician and make arrangements to see an allergy specialist.