FDA responds to US sesame labelling lobby

Studies have suggested the prevalence of sesame allergies in the US is more than 0.1 percent, which is a similar rate to soy allergy or fish allergy. As the first step in the process of determining whether sesame will become the ninth allergen requiring food labelling by US law, the FDA has issued a ‘request for information’ in order to collect more data about the severity and prevalence of sesame allergy in the USA.

Under the Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) passed in 2004, eight allergens must be declared on packaged food labels where they are present as ingredients: peanuts, milk, tree nuts, egg, wheat, soy, shellfish and fish.

Currently in the US, the presence of sesame as an ingredient in a food may be listed using unfamiliar names such as tahini, or under such terms as ‘natural flavours’ or ‘spices’. As sesame is not classified as one of the top eight allergens, manufacturers will not usually use precautionary labelling to highlight the potential risk of its unintentional presence.

In a statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., in which he issued a request for information relating to labelling for sesame allergies, he says they will consider the data and other information submitted, along with previously submitted information, to inform possible steps on sesame as an allergen in food to protect and promote the public health.

The FDA invites comment, particularly scientific data and other evidence, on or before 31 December 2018 about the following topics:

  • Prevalence of Allergies and Allergic Reactions Due to Sesame in the United States
  • Prevalence and Amounts of Undeclared Sesame in Foods
  • Possible Costs of Any Future Regulatory Action FDA Might Take Regarding Sesame

Read the full FDA announcement or see the request for information here.

Food labelling for sesame is already a legal requirement in Canada, Europe, and Australia & New Zealand.