Consumers have a right to know what’s in their foods and beverages. That’s why the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Nutrition Action’s publisher, has long fought for labels that tell the whole story.
Adding sesame to food products is a quick-and-dirty means to address cross-contact risks and prevent potential recalls for undeclared sesame, because these protective steps aren’t required when an allergen is already declared as an ingredient. So, companies may imagine, it’s better to add a new allergen and declare it than to actually clean up production lines to reduce it.
Industry AccountabilitySarah Sorscher, JD, MPH, Peter Lurie, MD, MPH
As a result, many manufacturers are labeling foods and cleaning up production practices to prevent foods from becoming contaminated with sesame through accidental cross-contact.
But some manufacturers have responded to the new law by intentionally adding sesame to ingredients lists.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) submits this petition under 21 U.S.C. § 350g, 5 U.S.C. § 553(e), 21 C.F.R. § 117.135, and 10 C.F.R. § 10.30 to equest that the Commissioner of Food and Drugs issue a notice to manufacturers and update its industry guidance to prevent manufacturers from intentionally adding sesame and other major allergens to products when they identify allergen cross-contact risks, a practice that violates food safety rules.
CSPI urges the agency to lay out a plan to proactively consider new allergens and develop controls for allergens prioritized under the proposed framework. We also urge FDA to develop an approach to prioritizing food intolerances not covered by the current guidance.
For any agency already in the spotlight for its repeated failures to take timely action on food safety and nutrition, the Food and Drug Administration had an opportunityto show leadership in protecting consumers from food allergens. Unfortunately, the draft guidance issued today by FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition falls short in giving consumers the protections we expect.
CSPI writes to draw FDA’s attention to our new publication in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology titled “Adverse Events and Labeling Issues Related to Suspected Sesame Allergy Reported in an Online Survey.” This study adds to the body of literature documenting under-reporting of adverse events related to foods to FDA. We request a meeting with the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) to discuss our findings and, more generally, our recommendations for an improved adverse event reporting system.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest was the first organization to call for sesame to be labeled, petitioning the FDA in November 2014 to extend similar allergen disclosure requirements to sesame as were already provided for the “major” allergens.