What Sesame Becoming A Major Allergen Really Means

A huge victory came recently for individuals who have an allergy to sesame seeds or sesame oil. Last week, the Biden Administration signed into law the FASTER Act, which stands for the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research Act (via The New York Times). This act requires all manufacturers to identify on their labels if their products contain any sesame. This is in addition to the identification of the "eight major food allergens" already required by law: milk, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, soybeans, wheat, fish, and shellfish.

While the eight major allergens account for 90 percent of all food allergies, researchers are becoming increasingly aware of the rise in prevalence of sesame allergies. Currently, the ninth most common food allergy in children and adults in the U.S. is in fact to sesame, affecting over one million Americans. The rise in sesame allergies is partially thought to be due to the increasing popularity of Middle Eastern and Asian dishes, in which sesame is a common staple (via Healthline).

When can you start seeing sesame listed on food packaging?

So how do you know if you're allergic to sesame or not? Typical sesame allergy symptoms can range anywhere from coughing, nausea, vomiting, and itchiness, to difficulty breathing, accelerated heart rate, and even anaphylaxis (via Healthline). Often times, a person is unaware they have a food allergy, and may experience no symptoms after their first exposure to the allergen. With each subsequent exposure to the allergen, the reaction becomes worse and worse. It is important to note if this is occurring to you and to contact your healthcare provider immediately. If anaphylaxis is occurring, calling emergency services immediately is crucial, as it can be the difference between life and death.

While people with food allergies are very keen on reading food labels and menu ingredients carefully, sometimes allergens can still find their way into consumed goods. For that reason, it may be a good idea to carry around an auto-injector of epinephrine, aka EpiPen.

The FASTER Act is step in the right direction towards combatting fatal food allergy outcomes, but don't expect to see the labelling go into effect right away. While the Act was signed days ago, the law has until January 1, 2023 to go into effect (via The New York Times). In the meantime, it is important for allergy sufferers to be just as diligent as ever at checking food labels and also for industry workers like waiters and chefs to be up to date and well versed on the ingredients going into their dishes, to help avoid a tragedy.