Sesame may become the latest food allergen that has to be listed on labels, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.
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Currently, eight major food allergens must be declared on labels: eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans, CNN reported.
"Unfortunately, we're beginning to see evidence that sesame allergies may be a growing concern in the US," FDA Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday. "A handful of studies, for example, suggest that the prevalence of sesame allergies in the U.S. is more than 0.1 percent, on par with allergies to soy and fish."
The undeclared presence of allergens is a public health issue and one of the main causes of food recalls, according to the FDA.
Research suggests that more than 300,000 Americans have sesame allergy, according to Lisa Gable, CEO of the nonprofit group Food Allergy Research and Education.
"The consensus of both doctors and advocacy groups that support people with food allergies is that sesame is growing into being a national problem and should absolutely be added as one of the allergens to be disclosed on labeling," she told CNN.
Allergic reactions to sesame vary from person to person and can range from mild to life-threatening, according to the group.
Currently, sesame "could be in an ingredient list under a word like tahini or even under a very generic term like 'natural flavor,' so the worry is that it could be something that even a very careful patient or family might not know is in the food," Dr. Robert Wood, president of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, told CNN.
The FDA is seeking more information from allergy and food experts "so we can learn more about the prevalence and severity of sesame allergies in the U.S., as well as the prevalence of sesame-containing foods sold in this country. These include foods that, under current regulations, may not be required to disclose sesame as an ingredient."
"I think there's enough evidence to suggest that sesame allergy is as common as a lot of the other foods that are already included in the labeling law, if not more common," Dr. Scott Sicherer, director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute and professor of pediatrics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told CNN.
"Including it as part of our U.S. labeling laws makes perfect sense to me," he said.
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