President Biden has signed into law a food allergy labelling bill – The Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act. This mandates the labelling of sesame in plain English language on all packaged foods sold in the US beginning January 1, 2023.
It is the first time since 2006 that a new allergen has been added to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), and makes sesame the ninth major allergen in the US, where over 1.5 million people are thought to be allergic to sesame.
For more information on the FASTER Act, visit foodallergy.org/FASTER.
The signing of the US bill coincided with the publication of a study into the estimated risk for sesame-allergic Canadians buying products from Middle Eastern grocery stores and bakeries in Montreal, Canada. Labelling sesame has been mandatory under Canadian allergen labelling law for many years, and researchers have recently sought to determine how often sesame is present in products that are not labelled or have a Precautionary Allergen Label (PAL).
From 571 products purchased at Middle Eastern grocery stores and bakeries, almost 20 per cent were found to contain sesame proteins at levels varying between 0.5 and 1,875 ppm. Thirty-five per cent contained unquantifiable traces.
Unpackaged products were more likely to contain sesame than packaged products. Among packaged products, sixteen per cent of those with PAL and three per cent without PAL were found to contain sesame. The researchers say the incidence and levels of sesame cross-contact they found demonstrate that sesame-allergic consumers could suffer an allergic reaction if they ignore the precautionary allergen statements on product labels. They called for better management coupled with targeted risk communication for both food industry and consumers.
Reference: Touma et al. Food Additives and Contaminants: Part A. DOI: 10.1080/19440049.2021.1881622.