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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising manufacturers to declare sesame on labels of all food products that contain it.
Under current FDA guidelines, manufacturers are not required to include sesame on the label if it is used as flavoring or if it is made into a paste. Only products that use whole sesame seeds are required to show the ingredient on the label.
The proposal is meant to help warn people who are allergic to sesame. Currently, manufacturers only need to label eight major food allergens on products, specifically milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans.
The FDA’s call to put sesame on labels follows a request it issued two years ago. The agency wanted more information regarding the prevalence and severity of sesame allergies in the United States so it could determine whether or not sesame should be considered a major food allergen.
Data showed that nearly one million Americans are allergic to sesame. Its exact prevalence is still unknown, but previous studies estimate that sesame allergies are almost as common as fish and soy allergies.
Researchers said that compared to milk and egg allergies that people often outgrow, a sesame allergy affects children and adults in the same way. Its symptoms include hives, vomiting, redness, and itchiness around the lips. In severe cases, it can lead to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction that can cause a sudden decrease in blood pressure and difficulty in breathing.
Several experts have weighed in on the FDA recommendation. Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a medical correspondent to an American news station, said that the agency’s recommendation is a step toward raising awareness about sesame allergies. Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), a non-profit group dedicated to food allergies, agrees that sesame must be declared on labels and that the FDA should recognize it as a major food allergen.