Although not a Top 8 food allergen, sesame allergies are becoming more common after first being reported in the 1950s. It’s important to be aware of the signs, symptoms and what to avoid with a sesame allergy.
Most people think that sesame is a safe alternative for those with nut allergies. Most of the time it is, but what if you had a sesame allergy instead? Over the past few decades, sesame allergies have been increasingly reported and awareness is becoming widespread. The FDA still hasn’t added it to the Top 8, nor does it require labeling when present, but it may be in the future (it’s unofficially the “9th” most common). Sesame allergies present themselves as any other major allergen would with hives, rash, trouble breathing, etc. all the way to up full anaphylaxis reaction requiring an EpiPen and immediate hospitalization. If you have a sesame allergy, that doesn’t mean you’re allergic to all seeds. The most common concomitant allergen is sunflower (however, this isn’t always the case). There is some correlation with tree nut and peanut allergies, though. 50% of those with both tree nut and peanut allergies also have a sesame allergy.
At first, you may think a sesame allergy is pretty easy to navigate, but because it is not a labeled allergen, sesame containing ingredients and foods are hard to identify. “Natural Flavor” is a big red flag for those with sesame allergies (you see that on ingredient labels all the time). Personal hygiene products need to be watched as well. You might not realize that your body lotion contains sesame and inadvertently end up with hives all over your arms! Baked goods are commonly dusted and topped with sesame seeds (or easily cross-contaminated), eating out at ethnic restaurants is very dangerous (Asian, Indian, etc.), and any spice mixture may be contaminated with sesame. Just like any major food allergen, you must be aware and vigilant, especially for those unexpected and sneaky places.Read More