The One Food Allergy No One Seems to Talk About

The Lempert Report
December 17, 2019

And it's sesame.

More than 1.5 million Americans experience adverse reactions to sesame every year. 

The FDA does not include sesame on its “Top 8 Allergens” list, which requires food manufacturers to list any of the eight most common ingredients that trigger food allergies.

Sesame shows up in all kinds of foods, from beef jerky to candy corn; write the New Food Economy. And more people are allergic to it than ever before: We’re up from 0.1 percent of the population to 0.49 percent in less than a decade. 

Sesame can be easy to miss on an ingredient label. That’s because it does not have to be listed under its common name. It can fall under the category of “spice” or “natural flavor” on a package, or it can be listed with an unfamiliar name like “gingelly oil,” “til oil,” or “tahini.” 

In July, Illinois Democratic Governor, J.B. Pritzker, signed into law HB 2123, which amended Illinois’s Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act to require that any packaged food list the presence of sesame on its label. For its part, FDA has not commented.

Since Pritzker’s legislation, there have other been efforts to add sesame to the big eight, making it the big nine. One such effort, the Food Labeling Modernization Act (FLMA) was initially introduced to Congress in 2018 by Democratic Representatives Frank Pallone from New Jersey and Rosa DeLauro from Connecticut. But neither the House nor the Senate advanced the bill. 

Europe has required sesame labeling since 2003, when France announced that 1.5 percent of its population was allergic to the ingredient.