CHICAGO (WLS) — A new law to protect people with food allergies may be resulting in unintended consequences. As of January 1, sesame is recognized as a major food allergen by the FDA and foods that contain sesame must be labeled on the packaging.
However, some consumers are upset with how companies are handling the new law.
Gretchen Perez said she discovered her daughter Nora had severe food allergies when she was just an infant.
“Her whole neck and face started to have a reaction so we had to seek medical attention,” Perez said. “Sesame was an especially challenging one because companies didn’t have to label for sesame.”
RELATED: Some companies may not be following Illinois law requiring food warning labels for sesame allergies
You may not realize this, but a lot of foods contain sesame — like many breads, cereals, chips and a lot more.
That’s why Perez and her family were relieved when Congress passed the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research Act, known as “FASTER.”
The new law adds sesame to the list of major food allergens and requires all food companies that use sesame to label the ingredient on their packaging.
“We thought it would make our lives easier and make things safer for kids with food allergies including Nora,” Perez said. “It just hasn’t ended up that way.”
Perez said the suppliers of some companies are adding sesame to products that didn’t previously contain sesame. She pointed out that some of Chick-Fil-A’s buns now contain sesame. Chick-Fil-A told its customers “with this industrywide change, our bread suppliers are unable to prevent cross-contact of sesame due to shared production lines and have therefore reformulated to add a small amount of sesame flour to our white bun and multigrain brioche bun.”
Culver’s recently told customers, “beginning December 16, the recipe for our Kaiser buns changed to include a small amount of sesame flour.”
Perez said her daughter now has fewer food options.
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“The spirit of the law was to make it clearer as to what was in their products and safer. Rather than do that, they’ve kind of taken the easy road out and added sesame,” Perez said.
“I think it’s lazy and it’s something we’re going to have to start calling out these companies on,” said Illinois State Representative Jonathan Carroll (D).
Carroll has been at the forefront of this issue and fought for federal legislation to protect people who are allergic to sesame, like his daughter Brooke.
So why are food companies adding sesame to their products?
Jason Linde with the Food Allergy Research & Education Organization said it’s an easier, more cost effective alternative for suppliers.
“What they’re basically saying is, we’re not going to clean the line after the sesame products are run. Instead, we’re just going to add sesame flour in every single loaf of bread we make, so we don’t have to clean the lines,” he said.
Linde said this nationwide problem stems from the bakers, but said the restaurants and fast food chains owe it to their customers to hold their suppliers accountable.
Chick-Fil-A told the ABC7 I-Team that it did not want a recipe change, adding that “Chick-Fil-A sources bread from multiple suppliers. There are no national sesame-free bread suppliers that can consistently supply Chick-Fil-A’s bread volumes [and] customers with a sesame allergy may prefer to order a gluten-free bun, which does not contain a sesame ingredient.”
Culver’s told the I-Team they could not participate in this story.
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“You’re making our challenging food journey even more challenging. We already have so many limits and restrictions and this just seems like an unnecessary one,” said
The American Baking Association told the I-Team that baking companies are working with their customers, including restaurants, to transparently disclose any allergen labeling changes to help ensure consumer safety.
The FDA said that while a company adding sesame and declaring it on their label is not a violation, it would be more difficult for consumers with a sesame allergy to find safe foods to eat, which is a result the FDA does not support.
The FDA encourages individuals and parents of sesame allergic children to review all food labels before consumption and avoid foods that contain sesame.
“Food safety and quality are our top priorities. We take great care in adhering to stringent food safety procedures. As of Dec. 12, our white bun and multigrain brioche bun contain sesame flour, while our flaxseed flour flat bread and chick-fil-a cool wrap have always contained sesame.
Chick-Fil-A bread from multiple suppliers across the country and due to the shared production lines in our supplier facilities and use of shared cooking and preparation areas, we cannot ensure that our menu items are sesame-free. This is an industrywide matter that led to the recipe change for our white bun and multigrain brioche bun to now include sesame as an ingredient.
Customers with a sesame allergy may prefer to order a gluten-free bun, which does not contain a sesame ingredient. Bread products on the breakfast menu, including the tortilla, English muffin, mini yeast rolls and biscuit, are also free of sesame ingredients. For more details about nutrition and allergens, please visit chick-fil-a.com/nutrition-allergens.”
“Following the FDA’s declaration of sesame as a major allergen, our suppliers have added a minimal amount of sesame flour (less than 2%) to our breadsticks due to the potential for cross-contamination at the bakery. We have updated our allergen guide accordingly and are sharing this information with our guests.
You can view our updated allergen list here.”
“We won’t be able to participate in this story, but thank you for reaching out.”
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