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A Major Backfire for the FDA in Allergen Disclosure

Sesame seeds, a member of the nut and seed food group, have recently become a point of contention for many food manufacturing companies as allergen disclosure regulations change.

As on January 1st, the U.S.  Food and Drug Administration requires sesame to be labeled as an , allergen on food products. The eight main food allergen groups are soybeans, tree nuts, wheat, shellfish, eggs, peanuts, fish and milk.

Through the Food Allergy Safety Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act, which was passed by the FDA in 2021, sesame joins the list of major allergens known to cause the majority of food allergic reactions. 

The newest act requires sesame to be disclosed not just in the ingredient list but additionally in the “contains” statement.

This has already  been commonplace in Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.


The Unintended Consequences

Unfortunately, however, the new act has had an inadvertent outcome as companies skirt around the new regulation. Experts say that it is difficult to determine even trace amounts of sesame in products, so as a solution, companies are deliberately adding sesame to products in order to more easily comply with the rules. Some culprits for this include Olive Garden, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A and many breads we see on grocery store shelves.

The reason for this is that companies must disclose that their product contains sesame even if it has the potential for cross-contamination. Food industry experts say that complete confidence in the presence or absence of sesame seeds in food products, especially bakery products, is nearly impossible. The companies believe that the only way to definitively give consumers answers is to add in sesame.

Olive Garden has stated that the chain is going to begin adding a minimal amount of sesame flour to their bread products.


Legality and Ethicality 

The National Institute of Health says that about 1.1 million people in the U.S. suffer from a sesame allergy. While the practice of deliberately adding sesame to products is not illegal, many argue the ethicality of the practice as the act was set in place to make foods more accessible for those with life- threatening allergies.

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