On Friday evening, President Joe Biden signed bill S. 578 into law, which adds sesame to the list of major allergens for purposes of food labeling — now at nine items.
The "Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act of 2021 or the FASTER Act of 2021," requires all the labeling of all food items including sesame as an ingredient to declare it as such, effective Jan. 1, 2023.
Sesame joins milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans on the FDA's list of major food allergens.
Research published in 2019 by JAMA found that approximately 1.6 million Americans have severe sesame allergies. The ingredient is popular for flavoring, but often hidden.
"Many Americans are allergic or sensitive to sesame, and they need the ability to quickly identify products that might contain sesame," Susan Mayne, PhD, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said in a press release earlier this year. "While most products containing sesame declare it as an ingredient, there are times when sesame is not required to be declared by name on the label, such as when it is used as a flavor or spice. Other ingredients, like ‘tahini,’ are made by grinding sesame into a paste, but not all consumers are aware that tahini is made from sesame. In these instances, sesame may not be declared by name in the ingredient list on a product’s label."
In addition to the labeling requirement, S. 578 requires the US Department of Health and Human Services to report on certain information related to food allergy research and data collection activities.
The bill was first introduced to and passed by the Senate on March 3 of this year and was passed by the House on April 14.