Products will have to say they "contain sesame" by 2023. 

By Tim Nelson
April 27, 2021

When it comes to certain food allergies, nutrition labels, parents, and schools all go to great lengths to make sure kids are safe — just ask any kid with a peanut allergy forced to eat their school lunch all alone. On the other hand, the roughly 1.6 million Ameircans who suffer from a sesame allergy have had to fend for themselves, carefully scrutinizing packaging every time they shop in order to avoid having to potentially reach for their EpiPen. 

Sesame seeds
Credit: Martin Hospach/Getty Images

Now, thanks to newly-signed legislation, life is at least about to get a little easier for those dealing with a sesame allergy. Recently, President Biden signed the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act after it passed through the Senate and House with bipartisan support. Among other things, the act classifies sesame as the ninth major food allergy, conferring it the same status as peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, dairy, eggs, and wheat when it comes to explicit labelling requirements on packaging. 

The treatment of sesame as a major food allergen has been a long time coming for those who suffer allergic reactions from the ingredient. Those other allergens mentioned above, the so-called "big eight" that account for about 90 percent of food allergies, were first grouped together in 2004 legislation. They've enjoyed special status on product packaging ever since via the introduction of more prominent labels noting that a food contains the allergen.  Foods containing sesame will be required to carry such labeling beginning in January 2023. 

Beyond the inclusion of sesame in that mandatory-labeling group, Faster includes other major provisions that could help out those suffering from allergies. It mandates that the Department of Health and Human Services regularly review promising food allergy treatments and research, which could make it easier to find breakthroughs over time. According to the Washington Post, that research will also likely make its way into the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which has implications for school lunch and other federal food assistance programs. 

So while sesame allergy sufferers will need to stay vigilant for another 20 months, the good news is that the government is willing to take their situation more seriously— in a way that could lead to a major breakthrough down the line. This calls for a celebratory order of orange chicken or an (almost) everything bagel. 

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