Sesame Named 9th Major Food Allergen

Listen to Convenience Matters to learn more about deadly food allergies.

April 27, 2021

Sesame Seeds on Food

WASHINGTON—President Biden has signed into law bipartisan legislation designating sesame as the ninth major food allergen and stepping up allergy research, reports the Seattle Times. 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.

The new law, called the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act received bipartisan support in the U.S. House and Senate.

According to Lisa Gable, chief executive of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), the largest private funder of food allergy research in the world, 1.6 million Americans suffer from sesame allergies. This new law will require foods containing sesame to be clearly labeled by January 2023. The law directs the United States Department of Health and Human Services to prioritize regularly reviewing promising food allergy treatments and research.

For two decades, life-threatening childhood food allergies have risen steadily, growing about 4% per year, and today they afflict 32 million Americans, according to Northwestern University. Studies estimate the costs borne by American families—for medical bills, special foods or forgoing full-time employment to care for a child with a food allergy—total $24.8 billion annually.

According to Jonathan Spergel, chief of the allergies department at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, a small study conducted in 2020 suggested if parents delayed introducing potentially allergenic foods to children, the youngsters would be less likely to develop allergies. The American Academy of Pediatrics, parenting magazines and parents themselves supported this theory, but subsequent studies indicate that practice is wrong. The new law attempts to change that.

Since 1980, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Agriculture Department have issued dietary guidelines for Americans every five years. Those guidelines are used to determine how the government administers school lunches and food assistance programs.

The rise in sesame allergies stems from Americans incorporating more international foods in their diets, according to Tina Sindher, a clinical associate professor doing allergy and asthma research at Stanford University.

In 2019, NACS joined the Collaborator Program established FARE, the largest private funder of food allergy research in the world. The Collaborator Program is made up of more than 130 organizations that help raise awareness of food allergies.

Last month, Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives for NACS, discussed “Food Allergens and Food Safety” with Gable of FARE during a Convenience Matters podcast. That podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and YouTube and at conveniencematters.com.

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