If you have a sesame allergy, you know how hard it can be to determine whether a food is safe for you or not. [Read here for more information on the challenges of living with a sesame seed allergy: Sesame: The 9th Food Allergen?]. Patients and caregivers need more transparency and advocates have been asking the government for this change for years.
Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finally listened and requested additional information to evaluate whether to require food manufacturers to include sesame seeds (and its derivatives) on their ingredient labels.
In response, researcher Dr. Ruchi Gupta, Christopher Warren, Avneet Chadha, Jialing Jiang, and Dr. Scott Sicherer got to work figuring out how prevalent a sesame allergy really is.
Warren, Chadha and Sicherer revealed that 0.49% of the total US population are allergic to sesame seeds and its derivatives – more than doubling previous estimates. This equates to approximately 1.6 million patients in the U.S. alone. This means, more people are allergic to sesame than some tree nuts – for which the FDA currently requires labeling.
Their research also found that:
- 1 in 4 patients developed their sesame allergy as adults
- Sesame allergies tend to co-occur with other food allergies:
- Half with sesame allergy are also allergic to peanuts
- 1/3 also allergic to tree nuts
- 1/4 also allergic to eggs
- 1/5 also allergic to dairy
Furthermore, reactions to sesame tend to be more severe. In fact, sesame is one of the top three allergens for which doctors prescribe epinephrine auto-injectors.
[For a look at the original study by Dr. Ruchi Gupta, Christoper Warren, PhD; Avneet Chadha; Dr. Scott Sicherer, et al, please see Prevalence and Severity of Sesame Allergy in the United States.]
What’s being done to include sesame on food labels?
A lot, actually.
First, the FASTER Act (H.R. 2117). FASTER, which stands for Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research, is a federal bill which includes improving the health and safety of those living with food allergies. The bill covers a wide variety of things including adding sesame to the list of food manufacturers must label properly for. The FASTER Act was introduced to Congress in April 2019.
Thanks to the amazing efforts of State Representative Jonathan Carroll, Illinois is now the first state to require sesame labeling on all foods just as they would under the federal law FALCPA. Rep. Carroll hopes that law HB2123, now Public Act 101-0129 (July 26, 2019), will inspire other states to follow Illinois’ lead in protecting its citizens with food allergies. Illinois is doing a lot of things RIGHT for their residents with food allergies!
So what can YOU do to help get sesame labeled under the Food Allergen Label and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA)?
Right now, representatives are back home hearing from constituents. Now is a great time to contact your local congressman or woman and encourage them to support the FASTER Act (H.R. 2117).
- Tell them about the challenges of living with a sesame allergy.
- Let your representatives know that the U.S. is one of the only industrialized nations that does NOT label for sesame at present. The EU, UK, Australia and Canada already include sesame seeds on their labels.
- Ask them to consider sponsoring a state bill, like the one in Illinois – this is how the stock epinephrine program became so successful.
And, please leave a comment below so that others can benefit from your experience advocating and listening to your local representatives as they speak to theirs.