The Newest Major Food Allergen And How The Food Industry Responded

How can something so little bring so much flavor?

Sesame seeds are often discarded; some remove them from their food, and some just don’t notice it. But you often see it on burger buns, bagels, and even salads. They may not be visible, but there are food products, such as chips or sauces, that also contain sesame.

These nutty little seeds, however, have been added to the major food allergen list this year.

Sesame is now the ninth major allergen in the United States. The other major allergens on the list: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans.

You may think that having it listed as an allergen will bring negative consequences to the food industry, but it actually, surprisingly, increased the number of products with sesame. Which isn’t a good thing either.

Sesame allergy is one of the most common childhood food allergies; only 20-30% of people outgrow it. Allergic reactions to sesame can range from mild to life-threateningly severe, so making more products with sesame seems bad for the food industry.

Naomi Seiler, a consultant with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and a mom to a sesame-allergic daughter, shared that the official listing of sesame as a food allergen was really exciting but expressed dismay because companies are intentionally adding the allergen to food instead.

PHOTO: Unsplash/lee jia liang

Gretchen Perez, parent to a daughter with a sesame allergy, said, “The spirit of the law was to make it clearer as to what was in their products and safer for people, and rather than do that, they’ve taken the easy road out and added sesame.”

“I think it’s lazy, and I think it’s something that we’re gonna have to start calling out these companies on,” said Illinois State Representative Jonathan Carroll, another parent to a sesame-allergic daughter.

It seems like the food industry opted for this loophole because it’s simpler and more cost-effective.

PHOTO: Unsplash/Maria Ionova

“Food industry experts said the requirements are so stringent that many manufacturers, especially bakers, find it simpler and less expensive to add sesame to a product — and to label it — than to try to keep it away from other foods or equipment with sesame,” 7News wrote.

Watch more about the issue in the video below.

People, Pets & Planet

Help where it’s needed most at GreaterGood for free!