In 2004, the US Food and Drug Administration created the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act that identified eight foods as "major food allergens": milk, eggs, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. Among other things, that means manufacturers are required to list on packaging whether a product could contain any of those ingredients. Last year, the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act became law, adding a ninth ingredient—sesame—to the list as of January 1, 2023.
Sesame allergies affect people of all ages and can appear as coughing, itchy throat, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth rash, shortness of breath, wheezing and drops in blood pressure, Dr. Robert Eitches, an allergist, immunologist and attending physician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told CNN in 2020.
"What it means is, for the 1.6 million Americans with life-threatening sesame allergy, that life gets better starting January 1, 2023," said Jason Linde, senior vice president of government and community affairs at Food Allergy Research & Education, a large private funder of food allergy research. The organization helped work to pass the FASTER Act.
Sesame "is in dozens and dozens of ingredients," Linde said, but it wasn't always listed by name.
"For years, (people) with a life-threatening sesame allergy would have to look at the back of the label, call the manufacturer and try to figure it out," he said. "If it was included, it was just included as a natural spice or flavor."
The new law going into effect on January 1 "is a huge victory for the food allergy community," Linde said.