Rep. Matsui and members of Congress, Senators urge bakers to curtail use of sesame in baked goods

Photo by Dina Nasyrova. |  If you crave “Two All Beef Patties, Special Sauce, Lettuce, Cheese, Pickles, Onions on a Sesame Seed Bun,” in th...

Photo by Dina Nasyrova. | 

If you crave “Two All Beef Patties, Special Sauce, Lettuce, Cheese, Pickles, Onions on a Sesame Seed Bun,” in the future, you might not find sesame seeds, or at least sesame flour on your next Big Mac bun.

A letter sent yesterday from a bipartisan coalition of U.S. Senators and members of Congress, including Rep. Doris Matsui, urges for more bakery products without sesame seeds or flour. The popular bun topping has been determined to be a significant food allergen by the Food and Drug Administration.

The letter sent to the American Bakery Association said, "Adding sesame to baked goods that have not previously contained the ingredient, often without notice, undermines the trust that people with food allergies place in the food industry.” 

Along with Matsui, other legislators signing the letter include Reps. Debbie Dingell (MI-06), Dean Phillips (MN-03), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT).

“Instead of acting to protect consumers, manufacturers are adding trace amounts of sesame to their baking products since the passage of the FASTER Act. It appears that this is being done to avoid the costs associated with the processes and systems controls necessary to ensure safe baking practices,” the legislators continued.

The Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act, which requires baking manufacturers to appropriately label products that contain sesame, was signed into law in April 2021 by President Joe Biden. Matsui was one of the sponsors of that legislation.

At the time of the signing, the legislators claim the American Bakers Association (ABA) publicly said it should not be a problem for bakers to make production changes to handle sesame as an allergen in their production facilities.  

However, the eight legislators say families are having difficulty identifying products without sesame as previously trusted restaurants and brands have added sesame to their products. As an example, Olive Garden's popular breadsticks are now labeled as containing sesame flour even though seeds are not on the item. 

“It is imperative that the baking industry take immediate action to address this issue. The health and safety of consumers should always be a top priority. The baking industry has a responsibility to protect the public, especially those with food allergies, and the intentional new addition of a known allergen to products goes against this responsibility. It’s time to act to rectify the situation,” the legislators concluded their letter.

According to this December 2022 Associated Press story, "Food industry experts said the requirements are so stringent that many manufacturers, especially bakers, find it simpler and less expensive to add sesame to a product -  and to label it - than to try to keep it away from other foods or equipment with sesame." 

The letter to the American Bakery Association can be viewed here

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