Illinois Law Requiring Sesame Labeling to Spark a National Trend?

August 12, 2019By Riëtte van Laack

The Food Allergen Labeling Consumer Protection Act (FACLPA) amended the FDC Act to require that foods containing a “major food allergen,” defined as milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans, must declare the food source of the allergen using its common or usual name on food labels.  There appears to be increasing evidence that sesame allergies may be a growing concern.  In fact, a recent study published in JAMA Network Open suggests that more American children and adults have an allergy to sesame than previously thought.  Based on results of a survey, investigators concluded that more than 1.5 million children and adults in the United States (i.e., 0.49% of the population) report a current sesame allergy.

As a result of the growing concern regarding sesame as a food allergen, there have been several calls for action by FDA to require disclosure when sesame is present in a food.  Last year, FDA issued a request for information “to learn more about the prevalence and severity of sesame allergies in the US.”  Comments were due December 31, 2018. (More than 4800 comments were submitted to the docket).  However, FDA has yet to take further action and, based on the most recent semi-annual agenda, FDA does not have any immediate plans to develop a regulation.

Seemingly tired of waiting, the State of Illinois amended its state Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to include a provision that a packaged food not for immediate consumption is misbranded if it contains sesame, unless the food bears labeling stating that fact.  Apparently, the hope is that this state requirement will “spark a national trend.”  However, in light of the FALCPA preempting state laws (meaning that state governmental agencies may not adopt labeling requirements that differ from the federal requirements), the validity of the Illinois law is open to question.  Thus, the law might prove to have little effect, other than drawing renewed attention to the issue of sesame allergies.