FDA Adds Sesame to Its Major Food Allergens List — Here's What That Means

2023 will be a much better year for those with allergies.

<p>Gabriel Vergani / Getty Images</p>

Gabriel Vergani / Getty Images

It’s officially 2023, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is here to remind everyone (or at least food manufacturers) that sesame has joined the list of major food allergens

“Sesame is joining the list of major food allergens defined in the law as the result of the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act, which was signed into law April 23, 2021,” the FDA shared in a statement in December. “Sesame joins eight other major food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans.”

According to CNN, the FDA has been weighing the decision on sesame seeds for several years and even asked manufacturers to voluntarily add it to its list of ingredients back in 2020. Prior to this, sesame seed only had to be listed if it was used as a whole ingredient, but not if it was used as a flavoring or spice. 

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“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, senior vice president of government and community affairs at Food Allergy Research & Education, the organization that helped pass the FASTER Act, shared with CNN. “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.”

As FoodAllergy.org noted, an allergy to sesame can vary from person to person, from mild to severe, and “reactions can be unpredictable.” 

Though the law is in effect, the FDA wants to also remind consumers that sesame seeds can still be out there, unlabeled.

“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,” it adds in its statement. “So 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.”

Furthermore, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America added that this labeling, and all allergen labeling, “only extends to those products that the FDA regulates. They do not apply to alcoholic beverages – regulated by the Department of Treasury – nor to meat, poultry, and egg products overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For both sets of products, allergen labeling is voluntary, creating gaps and confusion for consumers.”