Food Label Awareness: Sesame Allergy
When a family member has a sesame allergy, reading is protection.
Reading labels is a way of life when you or a member of your family has an allergy to sesame. Before eating anything in a package, be sure to read the label carefully. Look for hidden sources of sesame or other seeds that may be troublesome to you and alternate names shown for them.
Also be on the lookout for precautionary statements. These are statements that indicate an allergen may be in the food, due to cross contamination during processing. Examples of precautionary statements include: “May contain sesame” and “Manufactured in a facility that contains sesame.”
Allergists generally advise people with sesame or other seed allergies to avoid all products that contain precautionary statements about their allergens. If you are ever uncertain about whether a food product is safe for you, call the manufacturer to confirm. When in doubt, don’t eat it.
In Canada, new regulations have been proposed that would require food manufacturers list priority allergens in plain language on packaging, rather than using alternate names (ie: tahini, for sesame). Ingredients of ingredients that are priority allergens would also have to be listed. For example, manufacturers couldn’t simply list “flavouring” if the source of the flavouring is a priority allergen, such as mustard.
More on Canada’s New Food Allergen Regulations.
In the United States, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act went into effect in 2006. FALCPA requires manufacturers to use plain language when listing priority allergens, and to declare all allergens either in the ingredient list, or in a “Contains:” statement at the end of the list.
The allergens included in this regulation are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, wheat peanuts and soybeans. These regulations do not include sesame and mustard, unlike the proposed Canadian regulations.
Separate legislation requires companies to declare sulphites if they are present at more than 10 parts per million, or if they had a technical or functional effect in the food.
Both Canada and the United States are studying ways to regulate the precautionary statements used on packaged food labels.