Food manufacturers are required to disclose certain types of "major food allergens" on labels to warn those who have severe or life-threatening allergic reactions to these foods. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced it is now considering adding sesame to the list, in an attempt to further protect and inform American consumers from allergy-related risks.
The FDA said that thousands of Americans have life-threatening allergic reactions to food, some 300,000, and that 20 percent of those people die from allergic reactions each year. The agency says that sesame allergies have become a growing concern recently, and they're taking a deeper look into the risks.
So what are considered major food allergens now? And how is sesame becoming a new culprit?
FDA's Current Major Food Allergens
Food labels must include disclosures if the product includes any of the following eight foods, as required by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, passed in 2004:
- Crustacean shellfish
- Tree nuts
Allergic reactions to these foods have been found to be severe and life-threatening. Often, these reactions cause restricted airflow, anaphylactic shock, or suffocation from a swollen throat. The FDA estimates that around 150 deaths in the U.S. each year are caused by these reactions, and 30,000 emergency room visits.
Why Sesame May Be Next
Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Europe already include sesame disclosures on food labels. So is the U.S. behind? The FDA may think so.
Recently, the agency started to research all of the side affects of sesame and has requested input from the food industry overall. The Center for Science in the Public Interest submitted a petition to the agency to add sesame as a required disclosure.
This type of allergy is gaining traction elsewhere. In the UK, after a teenage girl with a sesame allergy died on an airplane after eating an unlabeled sandwich, the family requested that the country change its labeling laws.
If a type of food has caused even one allergy-related death, should it be included on the required disclosure list from the FDA? Because sesame can be more of a hidden ingredient than some, the Wall Street Journal says, it's starting to be considered more and more dangerous.