The Sesame Allergy Crisis


Tony Webster. Permission to use under license CC BY 2.0.

A sesame and poppy seed hamburger bun.

This year, starting on January 1, 2023, sesame is legally supposed to be listed on all food labels. This new law is called the FASTER (Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research) Act of 2021. Sesame became the ninth legally recognized labeled allergen by the FDA, along with milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans.

Before this new law passed, sesame was not legally required to be labeled on food product packaging. Sesame, in the past, was typically listed as “natural spices” or “natural flavor.” This made it hard for people with sesame allergies to know what was safe to eat. This law was supposed to help those with allergies in knowing what is safe and unsafe to eat.

However, some companies have objected to this new addition to the allergen list. With sesame now a legal allergen, companies are now obligated to sanitize after using sesame to prevent contamination. To avoid the proper cleaning procedures, companies have begun to add sesame to products that have never required sesame before, in order to get around the FASTER Act law.

This has begun to make it difficult to find certain food products for those with a sesame allergy. Some foods that used to be safe and sesame-free, now have unneeded sesame in them. Restaurants or their food resources companies, like Wendy’s, Olive Garden, and Chick-fil-a, have now added sesame to some of their products. This law, the FASTER Act, was made so that people with a sesame allergy can live an easier life, but with the companies adding sesame to more products, it has only made their lives harder.

Technically, what these companies are doing is legal, for they are not breaking any laws by adding sesame unnecessarily to their products. In my opinion, it does not seem to be the most ethical choice, because people with these allergies have been eating at these restaurants or these certain brands of food, and now multiple foods that used to be safe, are no longer safe. Companies have the choice to choose between what may be right or wrong. It will cost more money, time, and people, to take the proper cleaning procedures, which I think needs to happen. So, what do you think, should these companies add this unnecessary sesame to their products? Tell us what you think in the comments!