Sesame allergy is on the rise in the United States. Sesame allergy is growing at a faster rate in the U.S. than other food allergies. If you have read our previous posts, you will know that there are 8 common food allergens that are responsible for 90 percent of all food reactions in the United States.
- Tree Nuts
There is a push to make sesame allergy #9 on the list. Because it is not one of the top ones, it can be difficult to get proper information about sesame ingredients, and manufacturers are not requited to list it by name on labels.
Sesame is commonly found in Middle Eastern, Asian and Indian cuisines, it offers protein in vegetarian dishes. Sesame can be found in salad dressing, hummus, granola bars, marinades and in baked goods. It can also be found in lip balms and lotions.
Allergic reactions to sesame can be severe with symptoms of difficulty breathing, throat swelling and anaphylaxis. Those with sesame allergy should always carry an epinephrine auto-injector in the event of an accidental exposure.
The US FDA requires manufacturers to highlight the top 8 allergens on food labels. Sesame is currently not required. Sesame may be listed under a variety of names including terms like “flavoring”, “spices” and “seasoning.” The obvious places sesame is found are hamburger buns and sushi rolls. Some ingredients to watch for are:
- benne, bene seed, benniseed
- gingilly, gingilly oil
- sesamol, sesamolina, sesamum indicum
- sim sim
- vegetable oil
- natural flavoring
When in doubt its best not to eat the food at all or call the the manufacturer to determine if a product is allergy safe.
If you suspect sesame allergy or any other food allergen, you should be referred to an allergist or allergy doctor who can do allergy testing to determine all your food allergies. If you are allergic to sesame, there is a higher chance to also be allergic to peanuts and tree nuts.
Update Oct. 29, 2018
The FDA is launching a formal process to require labeling for sesame as a food allergen. Based on the rising prevalence of sesame allergy, it is almost on par with soy and fish, affecting nearly 300,000 people in the United States alone. If sesame becomes the “9th food allergen”, it would follow in the path of Canada, Europe and Australia, requiring labeling on foods. To read more about it, see below from Allergic Living Magazine.
Sesame allergy develops in early infancy and is seldom outgrown. Sesame allergy has shown a higher rate of accidental reactions than peanut. Identifying modifiable factors related to severe anaphylaxis due to sesame allergy could contribute to life-saving advances. Sesame allergy is associated with severe reactions, most sesame allergic patients also had evidence of peanut allergy.
Update Sep. 19, 2022
A recent study from Canada found that hummus is the major trigger of sesame-induced anaphylaxis. Sesame allergy affects 0.2% of children in North America. The rise in sesame allergy is largely attributed to food globalization given that sesame is often found in Middle Eastern and Asian dishes.