U.S – Following the designation of sesame as the ninth major food allergen under the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act (FASTER Act), the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA’s FSIS) has revised its instructions to inspection program personnel (IPP) regarding allergen formulation verification in the Public Health Information System (PHIS).

IPP plays a crucial role in ensuring that establishments accurately control and label the nine most common (Big 9) food allergens in meat, including Siluriformes products (catfish), poultry, and egg products. 

Sesame became the ninth major food allergen through the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act, a federal law passed in 2021. The other eight major food allergens were defined through a federal law passed in 2004. 

Manufacturers were required to list sesame as an allergen on packaged goods, including nutritional supplements, as of January 1, 2023.  

Sesame joined eight other foods already declared as major food allergens by federal law, which are: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans .

To align with the inclusion of sesame as a major food allergen, FSIS is reissuing the directive “Ongoing Verification of Product Formulation and Labeling Targeting the Nine Most Common (Big 9) Food Allergens—Revision 3.” 

This revision adds sesame to the list, specifies the milk allergen as “cow’s milk,” and introduces an additional example for soy products.

When the labeling of Big 9 food allergens or other ingredients is inaccurate on a product, FSIS has the authority to request voluntary recalls from the establishment. 

Previous analyses by FSIS have indicated that misbranding typically occurs due to factors such as changes in ingredient suppliers, products being placed in the wrong package or with misprinted labels, or alterations to a product or ingredient formulation.

By updating the guidelines, FSIS aims to enhance allergen verification measures, ensuring that inspection personnel are equipped to address the evolving landscape of food allergens. 

This proactive approach aligns with the agency’s commitment to safeguarding consumer health and maintaining the accuracy of food labeling in the meat, poultry, and egg product industries.

Sesame as an allergen

Sesame allergy is a rising problem in the US affecting approximately 0.23% of US children and adults.

Among the main allergen classes found in sesame are oleosin, vicillins, and seed storage proteins. 

An allergy to sesame may be difficult to test for. Skin testing does not reveal oleosi, a major sesame allergen, but it does reveal the other major sesame allergies. 

To prevent any erroneous negative findings, it is therefore strongly advised to test for sesame allergy via both skin and serum methods. 

The three types of sesame seeds may differ in the quantity of allergens they contain. When it comes to sesame seeds, whites have more allergens than brown or black. 

All seeds, nevertheless, cause allergies. Both sesame flour and oil are regarded as extremely allergic.

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