Sesame is a food ingredient that comes from the Sesamum indicum plant. Its culinary offerings are most recognizable as sesame seeds and sesame oil. Sesame is a food allergen for some people. A recent study1 showed that sesame was an allergen for approximately 179 of the 78,000 people surveyed.
As of January 1, 2023, the FDA requires that sesame be added to allergen statements on packaged foods and dietary supplements.
A food allergy is an abnormal reaction to food, where even a very small amount can cause a harmful reaction. The body’s disease-fighting (immune) system mistakenly thinks the food is harmful and produces antibodies for protection. This triggers the release of a body chemical such as histamine. Within minutes (or in up to two hours), the person may begin to feel sick due to unpleasant reactions on the skin, in the digestive tract, the respiratory system, or the cardiovascular system. Food protein, which causes the allergic reaction, is not broken-down during digestion or by cooking.
Any food can trigger an allergic reaction, including fruits, vegetables, and meats. However, the following nine foods account for most food-allergic reactions:
- peanuts (Peanuts are legumes, not nuts)
- tree nuts (e.g., walnuts, cashews, almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and others)
- shellfish (e.g., shrimp, crab, crawfish, and lobster)
- soy (soybeans)
Anyone can develop new allergies at any time. If you or someone you know is allergic to sesame, the recent addition of sesame to the allergen statements will help identify the ingredient in packaged foods and supplements. One word of caution; while labeling sesame in foods is now a requirement, some products produced prior to 2023 may still be on the market. So, continue to look for the allergen in ingredient lists during the coming year. Ingredients to watch out for are benne, gingelly, gomasio, halvah, sesame flour, sesame oil, sesame paste, sesame salt, sesame seed, sesamol, sesamolina, sim sim, tahini, and til.
- Warren CM, Chadha AS, Sicherer SH, Jiang J, Gupta RS. Prevalence and Severity of Sesame Allergy in the United States. JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Aug 2;2(8).