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Undeclared presence of food allergens – the leading reason for food recalls

sesame

 

With an increase in the number of people allergic to or being affected by sesame in foods, FDA commissioner has spoken about the next steps in labelling.

Most of us suffer from or know someone suffering from food allergies. Thousands of people all over the world experience life-threatening, food-related reactions each year, and an estimated 20 people die from them annually in America. In some cases, such reactions occur despite a careful reading of packaged food labels by conscientious consumers.

FDA Commissioner Dr Scott Gottlieb has released a statement to show commitment for advancing efforts to ensure that Americans have full access to the information they need to make an informed decision before buying foods.

He stated that the ‘undeclared presence of food allergens – the leading reason for food recalls – continues to be a significant public health issue and an area of active policy consideration by the agency (the FDA).’ 

He described how Federal law requires that ‘foods containing one of the eight “major food allergens” – milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans’ should display the food source on the label of the food.

Since the introduction of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, being passed in 2004, the FDA Commissioner states that sesame allergies have become a growing concern in the US. He suggests that ‘the prevalence of sesame allergies in the U.S. is more than 0.1 percent, on par with allergies to soy and fish’. As it is not currently recognised in the US as a major allergen, it is not required by law that it is stated on the labels of food. Dr Gottlieb states that ‘it may not always be specifically listed in the ingredient statement. Products with “natural flavors”  or “spices” listed on their label may contain small amounts of sesame.’

Due to this, the FDA is looking to acquire information from epidemiologists, nutritionists, allergy researchers and physicians in relation to their clinical experiences and relevant findings.

Dr Gottlieb stated: ‘We’re also looking for feedback from the food industry and consumers to help us gain a more complete understanding of the risks and to learn more about the potential impact of any future regulatory action that could include new disclosure requirements for sesame. All of this will help inform our next steps.’

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