The Hazards of “Voluntary”
Many of you may have heard that on Tuesday, November 10th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued draft guidance for voluntary sesame labeling. While this may seem like a great step in the right direction, it is anything but. This is a slap in the face to what so many of us have been working to achieve for so long relating to the matters of sesame labeling. What is the point of only doing this halfway? This is going to cause an incredible amount of harm and is worse than leaving the situation as it is.
A quick background, only the top eight allergens (milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans) are required to be labeled on food products as allergens. Sesame is the ninth most common allergen, it can hide under things like “natural flavors” or “spices” which is incredibly problematic and dangerous.
The FDA issuing this is going to make it a lot harder for people with a sesame allergy. Firstly, as if reading labels was not difficult enough, it will become much harder as we will now have to note which brands have decided to label for sesame and which don’t. This is going to instill false confidence in people who perhaps don’t have as much access to resources and information about this situation as I do. It is so incredibly easy to mix-up the meaning of this and will ultimately result in confusion and over-confidence in buying products, which will lead to neglect of the matter that most companies won’t change their labeling because it is only voluntary. This can and will lead to confusion that if one product is labeled for sesame and another product isn’t, that one must be safe! Right? Wrong. As one might be able to see, this can only end badly and is so dangerous for the 1.5 million Americans with sesame allergies.
This only supports why the FASTER Act (H.R. 2117) should be passed as soon as possible. “Voluntary” is not even close to enough, and sesame needs to be on labels now more than ever. I strongly urge anyone reading this to take action and help FARE get the FASTER Act passed. There is plenty of information on FARE’s website on how you can do so, even if you’re completely unsure what to do and you have no connections, you can make a big impact! “Voluntary labeling” is so dangerous for the food allergy community and cannot be tolerated. This is not a step in the right direction. This is not beneficial to any of us. It is dangerous, it is a slap in the face, and it cannot nor will not be tolerated.