Unintended Disaster Close, Sesame!

Helena Bottemiller Evich had a story in her newsletter last week that left me open mouthed. Whatever bad things you think Big Food might be capable of, this is worse.

An allergic reaction to sesame can be fatal, and sesame is currently the 9th most common allergen in the US. Unlike allergens 1–8, until a couple of years ago the law did not require sesame to be disclosed or labelled. In 2021, however, Democrats and Republicans overcame their mutual allergic reactions to pass a bill requiring sesame to be disclosed. So what did food manufacturers do?

They added sesame to products that had not previously contained sesame.

Apparently, adding a touch of sesame overcomes two little difficulties. First, it means manufacturers don’t have to go to the trouble of decontaminating their lines of sesame (which they somehow are able to do for the other allergens on the compulsory disclosure list). More to the point, it means they can legitimately say that their product does contain sesame, which they are not allowed to do if it might not contain sesame.

Forgive me, but this is absolute madness. I accept it is an unintended consequence, because, I mean, who in their right mind could have intended such a consequence? I hope someone tracks down the currently unsung genius who first came up with this dodge.

By the way, here in Europe (and, apparently in Canada) sesame has to be disclosed, and is, without any great fuss (though there are appalling cases where very bad things have happened because products did contain undisclosed sesame).

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