What's the Story with Sesame?
04/24/2023 · Newsroom Highlight
We take food safety very seriously at Wegmans and that includes controlling allergens so that our customers can make the best and safest choices for their families. Many customers are noticing additional signage and changes to ingredient or allergen labels regarding sesame and are seeking clarification. We are hoping that by sharing information about these changes, our customers will feel more confident in the products they are purchasing, as well as the process we use to create them.
Karen McCoy, vice president of bakery merchandising, Heidi Ingersoll, manufacturing and supply chain quality assurance director, Patty Ranieri, Wegmans brand regulatory compliance advisor, and Lisa Charno, Wegmans brand regulatory area manager, recently sat down to answer questions about what has changed with sesame.
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Listen to the conversation Senior Public Relations Coordinator Mandee Puleo had with our food safety and bakeshop teams about the new sesame allergen labeling.
The FASTER Act
In April 2021, the Biden Administration passed the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education & Research Act (known as the FASTER Act), which recognized sesame as the ninth food allergen. This amends the Food Allergy Labeling Consumer Protection Act of 2006 and now requires manufacturers to begin listing sesame as an allergen if it is present in packaged foods. The compliance date began on January 1, 2023.
What immediate steps did Wegmans take to make sure we were following the FASTER Act?
Patty: Since the FASTER Act was announced, we have been working diligently to identify sesame in all our Wegmans Brand products. This resulted in several immediate and long-term changes to our ingredient and allergen labels, as well as a few recipes for bakery items.
The first thing we did was begin to identify items that had or may have sesame in them, so we could correctly label them. Because listing sesame as an allergen is a new requirement, it may have previously been included as “added flavors” or “other spices” in items we received from suppliers, and we needed to work with those suppliers to identify these products.
Karen: We also decided to remove sesame from any items where it did not affect the quality, uniqueness, or taste of the product. For instance, we have decided to remove all sesame from our production line that produces our Tuscan, Pane Italian, Miche, and White Sourdough breads. As we work through our remaining supplies and packaging, we are working on a plan to begin the rollout of these reformulated breads. As a reminder, there still remains a risk of cross-contact in the store environment due to shared preparation areas like ovens and slicers.
Heidi: Once we were able to identify the ingredients that contained sesame, we were able to identify the finished products that were impacted. We then reviewed the family of products on a specific production line and determined how to best control allergen cross-contamination by sequencing items in the production schedule and cleaning/sanitizing the equipment. In areas where we were not able to completely eliminate an allergen, we followed regulatory guidelines for allergen testing and labeling.
We will continue to produce items that contain sesame in our facility, however for our parbaked breads, all sesame is being removed from the line to eliminate the potential for cross-contamination within our manufacturing facility.
What steps should customers take to make sure they are making the best choices for their families?
Lisa: The best advice we can give is to read the labels, even on items you have purchased in the past. Customers can do this in store, on the Wegmans app, or at Wegmans.com. It is also important to remember that there is a chance for cross-contact due to shared preparation areas for in-store produced items, which is noted on signage as well as the labels. For products where sesame needed to be added to the allergen statement based on the new requirements, signage was temporarily placed in-store to help notify customers of a change to the product. To help bring customer awareness, this is a best practice for any product that is updated to include a new allergen.