FDA misses opportunity to prevent food manufacturers from adding sesame, an allergen, to evade cross-contamination rules

Sesame seeds in grinding bowl

HengYao Tang/Unsplash.com

Statement of CSPI President Dr. Peter G. Lurie

As of the first of this year, food manufacturers are required to list sesame as an allergen on food labels and take steps to avoid cross-contamination with sesame during production, thanks to the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act. Most responsible food manufacturers prepared for the law’s implementation by redesigning labels and cleaning up production facilities. 

But some manufacturers and restaurants, like Chick-fil-A, Culver’s, and Dave’s Killer Bread have decided to take a cheaper, easier, and more dangerous route around the FASTER Act’s cross-contamination provisions by intentionally adding sesame to food products that never had it before. That’s why we petitioned the Food and Drug Administration earlier this year to prevent the intentional addition of sesame for this purpose. 

The FDA has declined to grant this aspect of CSPI’s petition. It does, however, acknowledge that “this practice could make it more difficult for sesame allergic consumers to find foods that are safe for them to consume, an outcome that FDA does not support.” 

That should be a clear message to industry to put an end to this lazy and cynical practice. For people who are allergic to sesame, even trace amounts can trigger a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction. It’s unthinkable that companies would add peanuts, say, to food products to evade cross-contamination rules, and it’s unacceptable with sesame.

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