New law requires sesame listing on packaged food labels

WHITE OAK, Md. (WCIA) — People who have a food allergy to sesame will now have an easier time identifying which packaged foods contain the allergen they need to avoid.

The FDA recently announced that packaged food labels are now required to list sesame as an allergen if a product contains it. Sesame was named as the ninth major food allergen in 2021 with the passage of the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act, joining the likes of milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat and other allergens. The federal law requires sesame to be labeled as an allergen on packaged foods effective Jan. 1, 2023.

Sesame will be listed either in parentheses following the name of an ingredient or immediately next to the ingredients list in a “contains” statement. Sesame has always been required to be listed in the ingredient statement if it was an added ingredient, but now that it is considered a major food allergen, the FDA expects it to be specifically listed as sesame on the label if it is part of another ingredient.

The FDA warned, however, that people with a sesame allergy still need to be careful at this time. The law only applies to the labels of packaged foods, not foods that are either in grocery bins (like bagels) or bakery goods displayed on trays. People concerned about these products may want to ask store personnel for food allergen information.

Additionally, food products that were sent out to stores before the new year are grandfathered in, meaning they do not contain the updated sesame labels and do not need to be recalled or relabeled. Because some packaged foods have a long shelf life, it is unknown when pre-2023 food stocks will be replaced with food stocks that have the new label. People are advised to proceed with caution during this transitionary period.

People are further advised to keep in mind that a food product’s ingredients can be changed at any time. The FDA said it is a good idea to check the ingredients label every time someone buys a food product, even if they have eaten it before and did not experience an allergic reaction.

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