How many people have a sesame allergy?
It doesn’t get as much attention as more high-profile food allergens like the peanut, but it’s possible that more people have allergies to sesame than has been previously thought.
A recent study published in JAMA Network Open looked at survey responses by nearly 80,000 adults and children across the country and found that about .2% reported experienced a sesame allergy symptom, a small number that’s still equivalent to more than a million Americans.
Sesame is a common ingredient beyond being a smattering of seeds on top of hamburger buns, and avoiding it is important to people with the allergy to avoid potentially dangerous reactions.
“This study is just another reminder that people need to be mindful of what’s in the food they eat,” says Dr. Anita Gheller-Rigoni an allergist and immunologist with Aurora Health Care in Oshkosh, Wis. “Sesame is everywhere, and talking to an allergist could help people navigate what seems to be a more common issue for Americans.”
The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require that packaged foods label sesame in the same way it does for other allergens, like milk or peanuts. But it’s considering it. Illinois this year moved to require such labeling.
“Products with ‘natural flavors’ or ‘spices’ listed on their label may contain small amounts of sesame,” then-FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb wrote in a statement last year to announce the FDA’s review of sesame labeling. “And people allergic to sesame might eat food labeled as containing ‘tahini’ without knowing that tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds. Fear of not knowing whether a food contains sesame may lead some people to unnecessarily limit their diets to avoid possible exposure.”
Dr. Gheller-Rigoni suggests that if you suspect you have a sesame allergy, you should talk to an allergist.
“It can be confusing and difficult for an average person to sort out what in their food is causing an allergic reaction, so a professional can help,” she says.
About the Author
Mike Riopell, health enews contributor, is a media relations coordinator with Advocate Aurora Health. He previously worked as a reporter and editor covering politics and government for the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and Bloomington Pantagraph, among others. He enjoys bicycles, home repair, flannel shirts and being outside.