President Joe Biden signed legislation declaring sesame a major food allergen. All products that use sesame seeds or items derived from them will have to be explicitly labeled after January 1, 2023. Any firm that fails to declare sesame and is found to have produced a product with sesame without the declaration like the other allergens, will be subject to FDA regulatory protocols including, but not limited to, a recall.
About 1.5 million Americans suffer from sesame as an allergen. The EU, Canada and Australia currently declare sesame as an allergen. Additionally, Illinois past this into law in 2019. Home to thousands of food manufacturers, Chicago and the surrounding counties have been labeling their food with sesame accordingly.
Sesame will now join dairy, soy, wheat, peanuts, eggs, tree nuts, fish and shellfish as an ingredient that must be specifically called out on food packaging. For the past two years it has been on the Federal Government’s docket to have this declared a major allergen after research from the FDA. In November 2020, FDA published draft guidance asking food manufacturers to voluntarily label their sesame products.
The bill, known as the FASTER Act, had eight co-sponsors — five Democrats and three Republicans — and clearly showed food allergies are a nonpartisan issue. The bill also mandates a report on how the federal government prevents food allergies in the United States. This includes how it is diagnosed and measured. The report must be presented to Congress and posted on the HHS website in 18 months.