Jan. 26, 2023—Are you one of the 1.5 million people in the U.S. living with a sesame allergy? If you or someone in your household is allergic to sesame, you know the challenges of avoiding it. Sesame is found in many foods and listed under uncommon names, making it tricky to avoid exposure.
The good news: As of Jan. 1, 2023, sesame must be listed in plain language on packaged food labels. This is a result of the FASTER Act signed in April 2021, which declared sesame the ninth major allergen in the United States.
Why is this important?
Sesame isn't always listed directly as an ingredient. You may find it listed as "natural flavors," "natural spices" or "tahini." These words may not be easily recognized as sesame, which may place consumers at risk. While allergic reactions may be mild for some, they can be life-threatening in others.
What should I expect to see?
Now that manufacturers are required to list sesame as an allergen, you will see it either listed in parentheses following the name of an ingredient or in a "contains" statement.
Use caution. Expect to see packaged foods that do not list sesame as an allergen. Food products stocked prior to 2023 did not need to be labeled or removed and may come with long shelf lives.
Additional tips to avoid accidental exposure to sesame
Check the label every time. Food product ingredients can change at any time. It is a good idea to check all labels prior to buying a food product even if you have eaten it in the past.
Ask about unlabeled foods. Remember, the new allergen labeling rule applies only to packaged foods. Other items, such as baked goods on display at your local grocery store, may not be sold with the allergen warning. Always ask store personnel if the food allergen information is not displayed.
Check with the manufacturer. If you are unsure whether a product contains sesame, check with the manufacturer or distributor before buying it.
Don’t rule out non-food items. Sesame can be found in hair care and body products, medications, perfumes, and pet foods. These items are currently not required to be labeled with an allergen warning.
You can learn more about living with food allergies in our Allergies health topic center.