In October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a statement about the concern of growing sesame allergies in the U.S. Today in the U.S, sesame is not one of the “Big 8” food allergens which include egg, fish, milk, peanut, shellfish, soy, tree nuts, and wheat – which currently require labeling. Sesame is, however, a major food allergen in countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and all member countries of the United Kingdom and the European Union, and therefore require explicit labeling of sesame in products sold there.
Of the more than 330,000 active food and baby food products in the Label Insight database, 8,000-plus products include ingredients containing sesame, such as tahini, sesame seed buns, and sesame paste, etc. However, over 100,000 additional food products could possibly contain hidden sources of sesame in the form of added flavors and spice blends where sesame is not currently declared today.
Of the more than 8,000 food products that certainly contain a sesame ingredient, 920 products mentioned they contain sesame within the allergen “Contains” statement. Conversely, less than 300 (286) food products state on-package that it is free from sesame or produced in a sesame-free facility. Red Gold and Enjoy Life brands are leading sesame-free labeling with 77 of Red Gold’s tomato products and 65 Enjoy Life products making the statement on-package.
Although sesame is not required to be labeled as an allergen today, over 5,300 products already mention that they contain, or may contain, sesame within the allergen advisory statement.
While there are no foods intended for infants and children which contain sesame within the ingredient statement, two products contain an advisory statement that they may contain sesame. Additionally, three baby food products make a sesame-free claim on-package.
The greatest concentration of products that contain sesame is within the dip, bread, snacks, and cracker grocery aisles; however, products across the store contain sesame ingredients, including over 650 personal care and cosmetic products and over 100 pet food products. Sesame, like all other allergies and ingredients, can potentially be added and removed from products in our foods at any time. Therefore, it’s important to read food labels for the most accurate information when purchasing food for yourself or others with food allergies.