The words to the iconic McDonald's Big Mac commercial jingle used to be: "Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun"

West Texas is in the middle of the sesame seed belt of production in the United States. It is perfect for growing sesame seeds.  Sesame is drought tolerant, heat tolerant, and resistant to pets and plant diseases, compared to other Texas crops.

Sesame Plant
Photo: The Shop Monticello      A Sesame Plant

Not even wild hogs significantly damage sesame plants.

With high sesame prices at the market, Texas farmers are benefitting from sesame production, but recent moves by the federal government could change that.

Strawberry plantations in the morning

Who could know that something as innocent as the sesame seed could be so dangerous? For some people, allergies to sesame and seeds can be as deadly as an allergy to peanuts.

That's why the Food and Drug Administration now requires that sesame is labeled as an allergen on packaged foods, including dietary supplements. The new rule went into effect on New Year's Day.  The regulations require that all foods made and sold in the U.S. be labeled if they contain sesame, which has been declared the nation's ninth major allergen.

The other eight allergens, established through a federal law passed by Congress in 2004, are milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans.

Sesame seeds can be found in many places, not just on Big Mac buns. It is an ingredient in protein bars and creams, salad dressing, and hidden in spices and flavorings popular in Asian cooking.

The new rules mean even if sesame isn't in a food item if it is produced in a factory that also uses sesame seed, the company must take steps to prevent cross-contamination.

The new labeling rules are so strict, that many manufacturers, especially bakers, are just adding sesame to products because it is simpler and less expensive to just add it to a product and label it than to try to keep it away from other foods with sesame.

That could be good news for sesame farmers in Texas. The new rules could mean even more sesame in food items nationwide.

Photo: Uline
Photo: Uline

Certainly, no one wants to see anyone with a food allergy harmed. At the same time, all the extra regulations are causing even higher prices for food products. Vilifying sesame which is a great Texas cash crop could eventually hurt farmers here. So, where does it all really end? Isn't there someone, somewhere allergic to everything?

Maybe the Texas legislature needs to declare Texas a "sesame sanctuary state".

Photo: McDonalds
Photo: McDonalds

For sesame seed farmer's sake and for everyone who likes sesame seeds, I hope McDonald's Big Mac buns continue to have sesame seeds on them. Maybe, McDonald's could satisfy the labeling requirement by writing the word "danger" in special sauce or some other brightly colored condiment on each bun.

It certainly is no less ridiculous than some of the regulations coming out of Washington.



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