The FDA is now considering whether to add a ninth item — sesame — to the current “Big 8” list of allergens that must be declared on labels, the agency announced in a press release last month.
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), more than 300,000 Americans suffer from a sesame allergy, but the current regulations don’t require food manufacturers to list “sesame” as an allergen.
This is a problem, the FDA says, because there are cases when sesame isn’t listed on the label at all.
The FDA cites tahini as an example. In some ingredient lists, particularly those for Mideastern foods, manufacturers will list “tahini,” the common name for sesame seed paste, as an ingredient. A consumer who doesn’t know that tahini is made from sesame seeds could end up in the emergency room.
In addition, some ingredient statements may list “spices” or “oils” that include sesame oil or ground sesame seeds in insignificant amounts that are exempt from labeling regulations.
Consumer groups, such as CSPI, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and others have petitioned the FDA to add sesame as one of the required allergens. In October 2018, the agency opened a comment period. The FDA is asking for input on allergen severity, the prevalence of foods with hidden sesame ingredients, and the possible cost of any future regulatory action. (To submit comments, visit https://www.regulations.gov and search for “Docket No. FDA-2018-N-3089.”) Comments close at the end of this year.
Only Canada, the EU, Australia/New Zealand, and the GSO (member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council) currently regulate sesame as a food allergen.
Our Genesis R&D software gives users the option to declare sesame as an allergen in accordance with regulations for Canada and the EU, which both require the disclosure of sesame.