For years now, any food that contains one of eight food allergens—milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, or soybeans—must say so on the label. Now there's a ninth ingredient on that list: sesame, reports the New York Times. President Biden late last week signed legislation to that effect to help people with allergies to it steer clear. A sesame allergy isn't as common as, say, a peanut allergy, with an estimated 1.6 million people suffering from the former in the US, per Food Dive. However, those who do have sesame allergies tend to have serious ones. Roughly 40% of children and 45% of adults with sesame allergies have what qualify as "severe" reactions, meaning they involve at least two organ systems or anaphylaxis. The latter can be be fatal. Starting on Jan. 1, 2023, food labels must indicate sesame.
At the Washington Post, food reporter Laura Reilly writes that the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research Act signed by Biden also ramps up research into food allergies in general and requires guidelines to be released more regularly to the public. Over the last 20 years, food allergies have risen 4% a year and now afflict about 32 million Americans. Reilly notes one unexpected factor: In 2000, a study suggested that parents could help their children avoid allergies by delaying the introduction of potentially troublesome foods. The advice became widespread among pediatricians and parents, but it turned out to be wrong. The opposite is true: Later studies showed that the careful introduction of potential allergens early actually reduces the risk of allergies. The new law is designed to help get such information out in improved fashion. (Read more sesame seeds stories.)