E-Newsletter Signup

  • E-Newsletter Signup 2

    Please Subscribe to Rep.Engel's Monthly Updates


    *Required Fields

    Refresh Number

    By completing this form, you are authorizing us to send regular e-mail updates to your e-mail account.

Print

Engel Urges FDA to Label Sesame Products

Engel Urges FDA to Label Sesame Products

Washington D.C.—Congressman Eliot L. Engel, a co-chair of the House Asthma and Allergy Caucus, authored a letter to Scott Gottlieb, MD, Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), urging the FDA to require the clear labeling of sesame products.

The letter outlines the prevalence and severity of sesame allergies, as well as the risk of accidental exposure and allergic reactions under current regulations. It was signed by Congressman Gregg Harper (R-MS) and Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH), co-chairs of the House Asthma and Allergy Caucus.

“Uniform and easily understandable labels will help Americans with sesame allergies and their families safely navigate their food choices and avoid preventable reactions,” the Members wrote. “Considering the prevalence and severity of sesame allergies, we strongly encourage the FDA to regulate sesame products in a manner similar to the eight currently labeled allergens and require the clear labeling of these products.”

The full text of the letter can be found below.

 

November 27, 2018

 

Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

10903 New Hampshire Avenue

Silver Spring, MD 20993

 

Dear Commissioner Gottlieb:

We urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to use its existing authority to require the clear labeling of sesame products and products containing sesame seeds, and to regulate such products in a manner similar to the eight currently labeled major allergens. 

Sesame is the ninth most common food allergy among American adults and children, ranking just behind the eight allergens for which FDA requires labeling (milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans).[1] However, allergic reactions to sesame can be even more severe than reactions to these eight allergens. Among adults with sesame allergies, 32.5 percent report having been to the emergency room (ER) in the past year for an allergic reaction – a higher rate than for any of the eight labeled allergens.[2] Rates of ER visits are even more common among children with sesame allergies.[3]

Despite the prevalence and severity of sesame allergies, current regulations allow sesame to go unnamed on food labels. Even when sesame is named, it can be listed under names that are not easily recognizable to consumers, such as “sim sim” or “til.” The absence of a clear label makes it difficult for consumers to identify products that contain sesame, increasing the risk of accidental exposure and allergic reactions.

Aligning sesame labeling requirements with those applied to the aforementioned eight allergens would not impose an undue burden on manufacturers. Manufacturers are already familiar with these requirements for the top eight allergens. Moreover, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the European Union require sesame labeling, meaning that multinational manufacturers have already been labeling sesame in other markets.[4]

Considering the prevalence and severity of sesame allergies, we strongly encourage the FDA to regulate sesame products in a manner similar to the eight currently labeled allergens and require the clear labeling of these products. Uniform and easily understandable labels will help Americans with sesame allergies and their families safely navigate their food choices and avoid preventable reactions.

We look forward to your response.

 

Sincerely,

 

______________________________                        ______________________________

Eliot L. Engel                                                              Gregg Harper

Member of Congress                                                  Member of Congress

Co-chair, House Asthma and Allergy                         Co-chair, House Asthma and Allergy

Caucus                                                                          Caucus

 

 

______________________________

Carol Shea-Porter

Member of Congress 

Co-chair, House Asthma and Allergy

Caucus



[1]“The Prevalence, Severity, and Distribution of Childhood Food Allergy in the United States.”

Ruchi S. Gupta, Elizabeth E. Springston, Manoj R. Warrier, Bridget Smith, Rajesh Kumar, Jacqueline Pongracic, Jane L. Holl. Pediatrics. July 2011, 128 (1) e9-e17; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2011-0204. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/128/1/e9.

[2]See 1.

[3]See 1.

[4]“Seeds of Change.” Sarah Sorscher, JD, MPH. Center for Science in the Public Interest. April 2018. https://cspinet.org/sites/default/files/attachment/seeds-of-change-report.pdf.