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Sesame Seeds Now Designated ‘Major’ Food Allergen

April 27, 2021 by TWN Staff
Bagels with sesame seeds. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

With a stroke of his pen last week, President Joe Biden added sesame to the federal list of “major” food allergens. As a result, the presence of Sesame must be noted on the label of all packaged foods containing it beginning Jan. 1, 2023.

In addition, by signing the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act of 2021 into law, Biden mandated that food allergy research be given greater priority by the federal government. 

The bill is a significant victory for food allergy advocates who have noted that sesame is often used in packaged foods labeled as containing “natural spices” or “natural flavors.”

According to FARE, a non-government food allergy advocacy group, about 1.6 million Americans are allergic to sesame.

“I cannot thank President Biden enough, along with the thousands of food allergy champions who made [this] a reality,” said Lisa Gable, FARE’s chief executive officer.

She singled out Sens. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., as well as Reps. Doris Matsui, D-Calif, and Patrick McHenry, R-N.C. “who garnered overwhelming support for this bill in Congress.

“It was because of our champions and advocates that the FASTER Act was introduced, passed and signed into law during President Biden’s first 100 days in office,” Gable said.

The Senate passeed the FASTER Act on March 3, and the House followed suit on April 14.

Last month, more than 500 food allergy advocates participated in FARE’s Courage at Congress virtual fly-in where they met with more than 200 members of the House, the Senate and their staff to push for passage of the bill. 

Because of its broader focus on food allergy research, allergy advocates say the new law will benefit the 85 million Americans who are affected by food allergies and intolerances, including 32 million who have a potentially life-threatening condition.

Sesame joins peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, dairy, eggs and wheat to make “the Big Nine” that account for about 90% of food allergy reactions.

Talia Day, a mother of two children who are allergic to sesame and a fierce advocate for passage of the FASTER Act, said because the president signed the bill into law, she will no longer “have to live in fear that my children could accidentally eat something that would kill them simply because it was not included on a food label.

“I thank President Biden for signing this much-needed bill into law,” she said.

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