Sesame allergy – how common is it?

According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), it’s estimated that 15 million Americans have food allergies, with more than 170 foods documented to have caused allergic reactions. While talk around food allergies is quite common, particularly among parents, discussion around sesame allergy doesn’t seem to get the most play. While many people commonly share stories of shellfish, tree nut, or wheat intolerance, the facts reveal sesame allergy is more common than you might think. If you suspect a sesame allergy with you or your child, or wish to explore a full panel of possible food allergies, our board-certified physicians can help.

Sesame is the ninth most common food allergy among children and adults in the U.S. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sesame allergy is considered common among children who already have other food allergies. According to research reported by NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a study found that approximately 17 percent of children with food allergies also are allergic to sesame. Also notable, many children in the study found to have sesame allergy often had peanut and tree nut allergies, as well. Details around these findings were published in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology.

Sesame allergy is found to be most prominent in Middle Eastern countries. It is the third most common food allergen in Israel. Likened to peanut allergy here in the United States, this likely is due to high consumption of customary foods containing sesame ingredients like baba ghanoush, hummus, and tahini sauce.

In 2004, the U.S. Congress passed the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA). This law identified eight foods as major food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybean. Historically, it has been difficult for consumers to confirm whether sesame-based ingredients are included in many foods. That’s because sesame has never been required by law to be called-out as an allergen on food labels.

As reported by The Center for Science in the Public Interest, research shows that in the past, only 14 out of 22 major food companies clearly labeled sesame ingredients on their product labels. This obviously creates a potentially dangerous situation for anyone who may be allergic to sesame. For anyone living with a sesame allergy, this is all about to change for the better.

In April of this year, the FASTER Act (Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research) was passed into law. This law requires that sesame be listed in plain language on all packaged food labels containing the ingredient. Through the FASTER Act, sesame is officially confirmed as the ninth major food allergen. This new law takes effect in the United States beginning January 1, 2023, and has the potential to save lives.

It’s important to remember that although anyone can develop a food allergy, it is more common in younger children than in adolescents and adults. Anyone with a history of environmental allergies, or a history of eczema or also may be at increased risk. When you’re ready to find out if your symptoms may be associated with food or seasonal allergies, contact us at 1-800-999-1249. We have offices in Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.