I-Team: Deadly ingredients could be hiding in your food

Companies don't always disclose everything

If you have a food allergy, you can usually read a label and know if something is safe to eat, unless you're allergic to one ingredient that can be hidden on the list. 

As the I-Team discovered, some companies won't disclose everything in their products, even if you call and ask.

There is a big push by some doctors and patients to get the government to require manufacturer labels for sesame.  Some companies will share unlabeled ingredients if consumers ask for it, but not everyone is willing to help.

When Iris Stroud was 1-year-old she tried hummus for the first time. Her mom Amber said the reaction was immediate, "..she started breaking out in hives. I noticed her fingers were turning blue." 

Iris was having a life threatening reaction to sesame. Already diagnosed with other food allergies  this was new, and brought with it a frightening learning curve.

"I quickly learned thaseast it was not labeled," Amber said.

She said it lead to meltdowns in the grocery store.

"I walked through Whole Foods just crying," she said.

Most companies only label the top eight allergens, required by a 2004 consumer protection act.  This makes grocery shopping easy to navigate when it comes to all of Iris' other allergies.

"It's very easy to read a box, look at the bottom and check has this, has this," her dad said. 

Sesame usually shows up on a label if it's a main ingredient, but sesame can hide under generic names like "natural flavors" and "spices." We called a handful of major manufacturers to see if they would tell us what's actually in a product's flavors and spices. 

Some would not confirm if sesame is an ingredient saying suppliers and formulas can change at any time and the company would not have any way to communicate product changes to consumers.

Scott Riccio pointed out puts consumers "truly at risk and in the dark." Riccio is with the non-profit organization FARE, or Food Allergy Research & Education, a group pushing for the FDA to add sesame as a top allergen. 

Riccio said it just makes sense with as many as 500,000 Americans allergic to sesame. 

"Knowing that it's relatively equivalent in terms of prevalence, potency and severity to the other already labeled major allergens," he said.

At first the Stroud's managed Iris' sesame allergy by avoiding a lot of food. Amber ran through the list, "Sesame is in granola, and sesame is in bread, and sesame is in crackers, and baked goods."

They eventually found brands that don't have any hidden ingredients, and now at least at home they know what Iris is eating, won't hurt her.

Sesame is required on food labels in Canada, most of Europe and Australia. The FDA tells us it's reviewing a citizen's petition that asks the government to add sesame seeds as an allergen to U.S. product labeling laws. 

For more information about Food Allergy Research & Education, click here.

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