TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Sesame is officially a “major food allergen.” On January 1, the plant became the ninth food to be added to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s list of major food allergens under the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research Act, or FASTER Act, which was signed into law in April 2021.
The major allergens — which also include milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans — account for the vast majority of food allergies and serious allergic reactions in the U.S., according to the FDA. Sesame oil is considered a mainstay in Asian cuisine. Other foods that may contain sesame include cereals like granola, tortilla chips, crackers and baked goods such as bagels.
Symptoms of sesame allergy reaction can include coughing, itchy throat, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth rash, shortness of breath, wheezing and drops in blood pressure. To help protect consumers with food allergies and other food hypersensitivities, the FDA requires companies to list major food allergens or ingredients on packaged foods and beverages. There are more specific labeling requirements for certain foods and substances that cause allergies or other hypersensitivity reactions.
According to the FDA’s website, the agency provides guidance to companies and consumers on the best ways to assess and manage allergen hazards. It also conducts inspections and sampling of food products to check that major food allergens are properly labeled on products and to determine whether food facilities are preventing allergen cross-contact (the inadvertent introduction of a major food allergen into a product) and labeling products correctly.
“When problems are found, the FDA works with firms to recall products and provide public notification to immediately alert consumers. In addition, the FDA has the authority to seize and remove violative products from the marketplace or refuse entry of imported products,” the FDA’s website says.
The agency recommends consumers with allergens be aware of how the major allergens are defined for the purpose of allergen labeling. Those who begin to experience symptoms of an allergic reaction should stop eating the food immediately, evaluate the need to use emergency medication (such as epinephrine) and seek medical attention. For more information about food allergen requirements, consumers can contact the CFSAN Food & Cosmetic Information Center (FCIC).