Letter from Senator Dean Heller Regarding Sesame Labeling

I know, another post about sesame!  I have some research still pending about the epinephrine expense issues I’ve written about here previously but with an influx of new cases and adding a partner at the firm (to find out more about them, check out our redesigned website!) and putting in time with Mary and Laurel at the Allergy Law Project, I haven’t been able to get much else done.

At any rate, I reached out recently to the Senators here in Nevada, Harry Reid and Dean Heller, via their respective website contact forms to let them know how important sesame labeling is to our family.  Of course, there is no pending legislation, but as you can see from my last post, there are ways that the legislative branch can voice support on an issue even if it isn’t technically before them for debate or decision.

If you’re reaching out to influencers regarding sesame labeling feel free to use some of these talking points:

  • While some allergens have to be disclosed, a major allergen does not have to be: sesame
  • Sesame can disguise itself as “natural flavoring” or “spices” on labels and put people very much at risk
  • Sesame can also be called “tahini” or “gingelly” on labels if it appears at all
  • Those with sesame allergy who are exposed can experience potentially fatal anaphylaxis
  • Robert Wood, director of pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine notes sesame allergies are “now clearly one of the six or seven most common food allergies in the US”
  • The mandatory labeling for food allergens looks at the “top 8” in the US, so if FALCPA was being written today, sesame would almost certainly be included in mandatory labeling
  • FDA-2014-P-2035 filed by CSPI and including prominent allergists and concerned families asks that the FDA require labeling of sesame using regulatory powers under 21 USC (s) 343(x)

My message to my state’s Senators talked about the letter from Senators Blumenthal, Markey, and Murphy to the FDA.  I received a letter in the mail from Senator Dean Heller’s office that I thought was pretty cool and I wanted to share it here since I so appreciated it:

Letter from Nevada Senator Heller
Letter from Nevada Senator Heller

Ms. Homa Woodrum
3470 E. Russell Rd Ste 212A
Las Vegas, NV 89120-2201

Dear Ms. Woodrum:

Thank you for contacting me to share your support for labeling sesame in food products. I appreciate your thoughts on this issue and welcome the opportunity to respond.

As you know, nearly 500,000 Americans are estimated to be allergic to sesame seeds. There are currently no federal laws or regulations mandating the label of sesame in food products, and I understand your desire to see this ingredient labeled on food packaging.

Generally, I am supportive of measures that help provide consumers with more information so they can make better choices for their own lives. Although no legislation has been introduced regarding mandatory sesame labeling, rest assured I will keep your support for this measure in mind should related legislation come before the Senate for debate or a vote.

Again, thank you for contacting me. Please continue keeping me informed of issues that matter to you.

Sincerely,

DEAN HELLER
U.S. Senator

____

I have a call this week with representatives at AAFA/KFA to hopefully get a statement from them regarding this issue – the support of the food allergy community is so crucial.  We can’t let CSPI go it alone!

Other posts about sesame labeling on this site:

Sesame labeling related articles elsewhere – commenting on these sites may help show support if you have the time:

4 thoughts on “Letter from Senator Dean Heller Regarding Sesame Labeling

  1. Keep up the great work Homa! You have done a great thing and I am excited to see where it leads. I just read your post now and I hope it is ok that I posted about epinephrine affordability a short while ago, today, actually. I am just so troubled by the outrageous prices and how unaffordable it is for those with high deductible insurance and other health insurance variations. Something must be done!

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    1. Oh I didn’t mean to mention the epinephrine thing as if I was staking out any sort of claim, I just know that I’ve been talking to a bunch of people in my research and they may be wondering where it all ended up. Mylan actually is supposed to be replying to some questions I sent them (fingers crossed, right?) but I don’t think I’m going to wait much longer. When it is a better deal to buy a ticket to Disneyland than to get life saving medication at the pharmacy, there is certainly something wrong!

      CSPI is doing a great job with their approach, I think, I just share all of these updates so that the food allergy community knows about it since the major organizations are pretty passive about labeling at the moment.

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  2. Homa, I can’t thank you enough for your work on getting sesame seed included by the FDA labeling requirements. I am finding sesame allergies on the rise as I am getting weekly inquires about managing food allergies. This allergen is growing in the US and I appreciate your personal time spent on fighting the good fight.

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