Sesame Added as Ninth Major Food Allergen
January 6, 2023
On January 1, 2023, sesame was officially added to the list of major food allergens defined by law, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So what does this mean? The addition of sesame, which was part of the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act that was signed into law in April 2021, means that it is now subject to specific food allergen regulatory requirements, including labeling and manufacturing requirements.
There were previously eight major allergens as defined by the FDA: eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soybeans, tree nuts and wheat. By law, manufacturers are required to identify the food source of all major food allergens, now including sesame, on the food label. This is done by either using the common or usual name of an ingredient that already identifies the allergen’s food source name (for example, buttermilk being used to identify the milk allergen), or by declaring the allergen’s food source at least once on the label.
The declaration of the allergen’s food source is done in two ways:
- In parentheses following the name of the ingredient
- For example: flour (wheat), whey (milk)
- Immediately after or next to the list of ingredients in a “contains” statement
- For example: Contains Wheat and Milk.
What’s New with the Addition of Sesame to the Major Allergens List?
In some cases, you might not see a change. In November 2020, the FDA recommended that food manufacturers voluntarily list sesame as an ingredient on food labels, so you very well may have encountered food labels that are already following the new required guidelines. Prior to 2020, a regulation was in place to identify sesame on the food label if whole seeds were used as an ingredient, but this wasn’t required when sesame was used as a flavor, a spice blend, or products such as tahini that are made from ground sesame paste.
Nonetheless, manufacturers are now required by law to include sesame in all its forms and you will see it identified on food labels moving forward, along with the other major allergens.
You also might not immediately see these changes in food labels for all products that you encounter, as foods that were already in interstate commerce prior to the start of the new year, including those already on shelves, do not need to be removed or relabeled. It could take three to six months to see a change in food labels because of this, so it is important to be vigilant in the coming months when selecting foods to serve to participants with a sesame allergy. If you’re unsure of whether a food product contains sesame, check with the manufacturer.
For more information on how to identify food allergens and accommodate participants with allergies, check out the on-demand webinar, Food Allergies & Special Diets,in our Learning Center. NCA members can also download our educational PDF, Accommodating Allergies & Special Diets in the CACFP.
Need Help Identifying Food Allergens?
Here's a great mnemonic device to help you remember the current nine major food allergens.