Call for sesame labelling in USA

While sesame is among the major allergens needing labelling in some countries including Australia, New Zealand and Canada, it is not among the ‘Big 8’ food allergens that must be labelled in the USA. A new report published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) calls for the FDA to change this, to protect the lives of up to half a million Americans who suffer from sesame allergy.

The report includes comment from the chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Robert Wood, who considers sesame allergies have increased more than any other type of food allergy over the past 10 to 20 years, such that they are now one of the six or seven most common food allergies in the USA. The number of different names for sesame and sesame derivatives was highlighted as an additional risk for consumers trying to avoid sesame in food products.

In gathering information for their report, the CSPI contacted many food manufacturers throughout the USA and found only three that voluntarily labelled sesame on their products. Many more were contacted but reportedly refused to provide information as to whether sesame was present in their products or not. Some of these companies cited recipe confidentiality as the reason for not disclosing this potentially life-saving information. In other instances the manufacturer had not received adequate information from their suppliers to determine whether sesame was present or not.

The report adds to a citizen petition presented to the FDA last year, as well as three US Senators adding their support to the cause in June this year. Advocates are hopeful that this concerted effort will raise sesame labelling to a high priority with the FDA.

Read the full report here.