Sesame is the newest major allergen in the U.S. On April 23, 2021, the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act was signed into law, declaring sesame as the 9th major food allergen
recognized by the U.S., effective January 1, 2023.
Sesame has been a concern in the U.S. for many years but was not included in the original 2004 allergen food labeling law
because it was unclear how many Americans were allergic to sesame. Since then, it’s estimated that more than one million
Americans are allergic to sesame.
Sesame and sesame containing foods have become popular in American diets. For example, hummus—which contains sesame in the form of tahini—is present on 13.7% of U.S. restaurant menus, according to Datassential. And restaurants that use hummus as a central ingredient, such as Roti, Cava, and Hummus & Pita Co., are popular in many American cities.
Increased sesame exposure, regulatory requirements, and overall consumer desire for food transparency will increase the need for restaurants to have sesame allergen and ingredient information on-hand and update allergen training. Five states
already require restaurant allergen disclosure or training and many restaurants provide allergen information voluntarily.
What can restaurants do to prepare?
To prepare for the addition of sesame to its allergen communication and training, restaurants can:
- Require suppliers to provide “contains” and “may contain” sesame statements for all food and beverage ingredients.
- Update written allergen information on menus, websites, apps, and other communication sources.
- Ask for help from qualified allergen-identification consultants.
- Update allergen training.
- Update delivery apps to include sesame.
Sesame is popular for its deep savory flavor and is found in many common foods including sesame seeds, sesame oil, breads, bread crumbs, baked goods, sauces, soups, dipping sauces, and dressings.
Sesame can cause mild to life-threatening allergic reactions like many food allergens. To avoid an allergic reaction people with a sesame allergy must avoid sesame and sesame products.
Check for these ingredients
And sesame goes by many different names. Restaurants and its suppliers should check ingredients within ingredients for common and not-so-common sesame names. FARE
recommends looking for these food names as sesame containing ingredients:
- benne (benne seed, benniseed)
- gingelly (gingelly oil)
- gomasio (sesame salt)
- sesame seed
- sesame flour
- sesame oil
- sesame paste
- sesamum indicum
- sim sim
Look closely at sesame oil. According to FARE,
studies show that most people with specific food protein allergies can safely eat highly refined oils made from those foods (examples include highly refined peanut and soybean oil). However, sesame oil is not highly refined, which means people who are allergic to sesame should avoid it.
Growth of Global Cuisine Trends
As the U.S. becomes more diverse and global cuisine trends grow on restaurant menus, so will the need for global allergen information. University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Food Allergy Research And Resource Program
keeps track of evolving allergens around the world in its international food allergen regulatory chart
. This helps identify what may come next on the official allergen list and/or help develop allergen programs as part of North American or International expansion.