Sesame Label Law

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State Representative Jonathan Carroll drove the unanimously passed Illinois state law requiring sesame to be included as a top allergen on packaged foods. His daughter is one of the estimated 1.6 million Americans with a sesame allergy. Food allergy legislation is one of his biggest missions and he’s just getting started.

What inspired you to write this law?

My daughter Brooke has multiple food allergies including peanuts, tree nuts, chickpeas, sunflower seeds and sesame, which is her most severe allergy. 

Why did you start with sesame?

Sesame is the ninth most prevalent food allergy in the United States. Falling outside of the Top 8, no federal law requires food manufacturers to label for sesame and because it can be hidden in ingredients like spices, oils or natural flavoring, it makes navigating labels particularly challenging. 

Representative Carroll and his daughter, Brooke.

Representative Carroll and his daughter, Brooke.

What does law HB2123 cover?

It applies to pre-packaged food products sold in Illinois. 

When will sesame start showing up on labels?

The law is effective immediately, so as products are made, we are going to start seeing sesame on labels.

What about the rest of the country?

The hope is that the manufacturers will say, if we have to do it in Illinois, we have to do it everywhere. It may set the precedent nationally. We hope that it does become a national trend and we hope the FDA is going to act upon this.

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The response was unprecedented

We received 100% support— which in any political capacity, is insane. In 2019, you’re either going to know somebody or you’re going to be directly impacted by food allergies. 

It’s pretty emotional

I sent an email to thank all of my colleagues for their support. I told them that I didn’t think they understood the impact that this bill has. They helped to set a trend that I believe is going to take off locally and nationally. It's something we can be really proud of. That’s legislating, getting stuff done and working through problems that we have. This isn’t a partisan issue; this is a safety issue.

What’s next for food labeling laws?

We are just getting started. I wish we would label for all the allergens. The goal is that one day, people are going to know what allergens are in everything they eat. It’s baby steps to a bigger goal. We’re setting the tone that we’re not going to wait on the federal government that's been sitting on this for a while to act, we’re going to set the precedent and see what they do after that. 

Is there any other pending legislation that you’re working on?

There’s another bill that passed the House and the Senate and it’s sitting on the governor's desk. It’s going to mandate that insurance companies cover epi-pens for children 18 and under. If the governor signs that, we’ll start a precedent that this is a public safety issue.

Brooke at Dr. Ruchi Gupta's event

Brooke at Dr. Ruchi Gupta's event

It runs in the family

Brooke has become a great advocate for herself. We were recently invited to lunch with Dr. Ruchi Gupta. Brooke spoke to a room full of doctors, explaining to them about food allergies. She was schooling the doctors. My daughter has a tremendous amount of moxy; trust me when I tell you that she is going to be the President of the United States.

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