Foods can trigger allergies and once it starts, it can become so nasty that a quick trip to the drugstore or to the doctor for a substantial dose of antihistamine is would become necessary. With people's sensitivity to allergens varying in degree, it is important for consumers to know the ingredients of the foods they eat, lest it triggers an allergic response upon ingestion. Given this premise, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that manufacturers must include sesame as an ingredient in food labels.

The FDA issued guidance on the matter and while it does not require food manufacturers to list sesame, it makes a strong suggestion in order to help people who are allergic to the ingredient , to avoid buying the product.

Susan Mayne, director of the Center for Food and Safety and Applied Nutrition of the FDA said that many Americans are either sensitive or allergic to sesame. These individuals need to be able to identify a product that contains the seeds or else a failure to do so would run the risk of them suffering from an allergy attack.

There are instances when sesame seeds are not required to be declared on a product's label. The FDA regulations state that if the whole seeds of sesame are used, then it must be listed on the label. On the other hand, if sesame is merely used in a spice blend or a flavour, then there is no need to declare it.

At present, federal law names eight major food allergens that must be included on the label if they are an ingredient of a particular product. These are eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soybeans, tree nuts, and wheat. The inclusion of sesame on the label is recommendatory and voluntary, but not yet required. This however received some resistance from food allergy experts because they deem a voluntary recommendation will not be good enough.

In a media release titled, "FARE Sends Letter to FDA Regarding Draft Guidance on Voluntary Sesame Labeling," Lisa Gable, the chief executive officer of the organisation, expressed disappointment in the proposed guidance of the FDA on sesame. She recognised that the guidance is a step in the right direction. However, she highlighted that sesame has to be the ninth major allergen and labelled, considering that there are 1.5 million Americans who are allergic to it.

Sesame seeds recommended to be listed by FDA. Photo: Pixabay