Representative Nita Lowey

Representing the 17th District of New York

Lowey Statement on FDA Consideration of Sesame Labeling

October 29, 2018
Press Release

WHITE PLAINS, NY – Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY17/Rockland-Westchester), Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement regarding reports today that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering new labeling requirements for sesame over allergy concerns:

“I am pleased that the FDA is considering new labeling requirements for sesame, one of the most prevalent allergens in the United States.

“For years, I have pushed the FDA to add sesame to the list of major food allergens. Just like other major allergens, sesame can trigger life-threatening reactions. Its absence from food ingredient labels places consumers—especially children—with the allergy at serious risk. 

“Requiring sesame under federal law to be listed on food allergen labeling would mitigate these risks, making it easier for sesame-allergic consumers to identify and avoid foods that could cause a reaction. I urge the FDA to swiftly move forward with these new disclosure requirements to protect public health and put necessary information in the hands of consumers.”

Eight major allergens are required to have a label displaying their inclusion on a list of ingredients on food packaging. Sesame is not included on the list of major allergens even though sesame allergies are estimated to afflict more than 300,000 people in the United States, making it the 9th most commonly diagnosed allergy in the country. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, sesame is also the 6th or 7th most severe of the major allergens, posing potentially deadly risks for many sesame-allergic people who are accidently exposed.

Congresswoman Lowey has been the leading champion of legislation to support the food-allergic community. In April 2018, she secured passage of an amendment to study allergic reactions aboard flights as part of H.R. 4, the FAA Reauthorization Act, which passed the U.S. House. Among other accomplishments, Lowey authored the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act, enacted in 2004 and first introduced in 1999, which requires labeling of the eight main food allergens in plain language on food packaging.