GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Food manufacturers are now required to list sesame as a potential allergen on nutrition labels for packaged foods.

The Food and Drug Administration has added sesame as the ninth major food allergen. The label requirement went into effect Jan. 1 but many people are not yet aware of the change. Older items without new labels may still be on store shelves during the transition.

The family of 10-year-old Brooke Kosanke became aware of her sesame allergy when she was 2. Last week, they had a scare as she ate a piece of toast for breakfast.

“We didn’t know that there was sesame in the bread,” Brooke said. “I took like five bites and then I was like my tongue was really itchy.”

Her mother Leah Kosanke says they looked at the label and noticed a change.

“Our go-to bread that we always use that I have bought for years added sesame to their ingredients and we didn’t know it,” Leah Kosanke said.

The family was not aware of the label law change.

Dr. Karyn Gell of Grand Rapids Allergy said the best line of defense with a sesame reactions in using an EpiPen, especially within the first 30 minutes of exposure.

“Generally speaking for a severe allergic reaction to sesame, or food in general, (the allergen) has to be ingested,” Gell said. “Because sesame allergy is increasing, that finally got added to the label law as well, so it’s clearly labeled for you rather than buried in an ingredient list or hidden as the word ‘spice’ or ‘natural flavor.’”

The list of ingredients on a bag of bread includes sesame. (Feb. 2, 2023)
The list of ingredients on a bag of bread includes sesame. (Feb. 2, 2023)

The change has meant it can be harder for some to find foods without sesame on the label. Some manufacturers have decided not to go through the process of ensuring their products do not contain sesame and instead simply added the seed to the label.

“They want to do that so they don’t have to worry about the label law. They’re just going to proactively add it now whereas it was not part of their food before,” Gell said.

Parents like Leah Kosanke are hoping more people become aware of the change.

“Make sure you go back now and look at your ingredients list on these go-to foods that you were feeding your kids because it’s very possible that it might now contain sesame,” Leah Kosanke said.