March 23, 2018

CSPI Asks FDA to Label Sesame an Allergen

Regular readers of this site know that recalls are often issued in Canada for sesame seeds, but those types of recalls are not issued in the U.S. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is asking the FDA to require that sesame be disclosed on food labels in the same manner as the other major food allergens, which include milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, what, and soy.

FDAWhen Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act in 2004, the “Big 8” allergens account for 90% of allergic reactions caused by food. But experts think that sesame is an emerging cause of severe allergy. About 300,000 to 500,000 Americans are allergic to sesame.

CSPI filed the petition earlier this month, asking that the agency raise awareness among food service providers. Canada, the EU, Australia, Israel, and New Zealand all require labeling of sesame-based ingredients. The FDA could use its authority under FALCPA to require these labels.

CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said in a statement, “The 2004 law was an enormous advance for those who must avoid one or another common allergen to safeguard their health. But an important gap remains. The FDA should act to protect consumers allergic to sesame.”

The FDA has stated that undeclared food allergens is a serious public health issue. Medical research from 1950 has demonstrated that sesame seeds cause severe IgE antibody-mediated and cell-mediated hypersensitivity allergic reactions, including asthma, contact dermatitis, wheezing, and potentially fatal anaphylactic shock. These are the same symptoms used as the basis for regulation by the FDA of the “major allergens.”

Sesame seed can be listed as benne, gingelly, gomasio, halva, seed oil, sesamolina, sim sim, tahini, or til. Sesame oil is a common ingredient in foods and can be included in “natural flavorings” on labels, which gives consumers no information at all.


  1. The US food industry will not allow sesame to be considered a food allergen, any more then they do corn allergens. Food companies don’t want to have to label their products for allergens, that would alert people that it is not safe for them. Or recall products that are not truthfully labeled for a food allergen. It is all about money, and they put profits before the health and safety of people. They don’t care about consumers, or that ‘what we don’t know can kill us’. They only care about their bottom line.

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