Major Manufacturers Fail to Disclose Sesame, Even When Asked

CSPI Urges Mandatory Labeling of Emerging and Serious Allergen

September 17, 2015

ConAgra, Heinz, Land O’Lakes, and Unilever fail to disclose whether their products contain sesame—an emerging major allergen—even when asked directly by consumers, according to a survey of manufacturers conducted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The nonprofit nutrition and food safety watchdog group says that companies’ reluctance to provide this critical information to allergic consumers is why the Food and Drug Administration should use its authority to add sesame to the list of allergens required to be disclosed on food labels by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act.

An estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Americans are allergic to sesame. Though it is sometimes seen on ingredient lists, it is also sometimes obscured either by unfamiliar names, such as gingelly or til, or hidden as an ingredient in “natural flavors” or “spices.” Sesame is not prominently disclosed in bold at the end of ingredients lists in the way that milk, egg, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts, and soybeans—the “big 8” food allergens—sometimes are.

“Food allergens are a life-or-death issue for some, so it’s quite astonishing to see these manufacturers treat customers who may be deathly allergic to sesame with such scripted indifference,” said CSPI chief regulatory affairs lawyer Laura MacCleery. “It’s shocking and appalling that some companies will not disclose the presence of sesame in foods even when a consumer takes the time to call or email and ask them directly.”

In November 2014, CSPI filed a regulatory petition with the FDA asking the agency to require sesame to be disclosed as an allergen on food labels and treated exactly like the eight other major allergens. The petition also asked FDA to work with restaurants to raise awareness among chefs and servers of sesame as an allergen. (The FDA has not yet responded to the petition).

Kellogg, Stonyfield Farm, Pepperidge Farm, Nestle, and Campbell are also among the companies that fail to tell consumers, upon their request, whether their foods contain sesame. Other companies are more forthcoming. While Frito-Lay, Utz, and Trader Joe’s do not list sesame with allergens on food labels, they do at least provide that information to consumers upon request.


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