Restaurants work to keep up with food allergy labeling

The Food and Drug Administration is acknowledging the unintended consequences of an addition to the top allergens list, as they call on manufacturers to take appropriate measures to reduce cross-contamination.

At the start of the year, a new federal law went into effect that added sesame to the list of top allergens. On Wednesday, the FDA said the law has had unintended consequences as some food manufacturers have added sesame to recipes rather than adhere to cross-contamination guidelines.

At Olivia’s Organic Café in Burnsville, an allergen-safe eatery, owner Maria Vejdani said they’ve had products recently show up with sesame in the ingredients where it wasn’t included before.

"From a sourcing standpoint, it's just going to be double-checking labels when they come in," she said. 

Dr. Niladri Aichbhaumik from St. Paul Allergy and Asthma says they’ve observed an increase in sesame allergies in the last decade, with around 1.6 million Americans living with slight to severe intolerance.

"I think it’s a growing problem as more people are eating middle-eastern foods," he said. 

While Vejdani says much of their menu is from scratch, she is constantly checking with manufacturers to be sure their ingredients are up-to-date. She admits it's tedious but says it’s a labor of love, as many of her customers rely on their transparent menu.

"Anytime we come across these little glitches or sourcing or supply chain issues, those stressors evaporate when you see the look in somebody’s eyes of gratitude," she said.