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Sesame Is Now a Major Allergen: Here's What You Need to Know

If you suffer from food allergies, then you’ll want to pay close attention to this news: as of January 1, 2023, sesame will officially be listed as the ninth major allergen on food labels. This means that if sesame is an ingredient in any packaged food, it must be clearly identified on the label. A lack of labeling could be putting those with allergies at risk of extreme symptoms.

Why Is Sesame Being Added? 

Sesame is being added to the list of major allergens due to the increasing number of people who have a sesame allergy. According to the FDA’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) from 2021, approximately 11 million adults reported being diagnosed with a food or digestive allergy in their lifetime and 2 million adults reported being diagnosed with a sesame allergy

The NCHS also notes that “in 2021 only 18% of consumers were aware of sesame as a potential allergen” which means it’s even more important to make sure that people are aware of the risks associated with consuming sesame products. 

What Are the Side Effects of a Sesame Allergy?

For someone with an allergy to sesame, exposure can quickly lead to a range of reactions. When in contact with the allergen, proteins bind to antibodies created by their body's immune system which set off serious defense mechanisms resulting in anything from subtle irritation to possibly dangerous health conditions.

Sufferers of sesame allergies can experience a wide range of reactions, from mild hives to life-threatening anaphylaxis. To stay safe and prepared in the face of any reaction, those with severe sensitivities should always carry epinephrine injection devices, as they are considered first-line treatment for such a serious allergic response.

If you or someone in your family suffers from a sesame allergy, our team at Modern Allergy can help. We offer convenient same-day appointments, easy online scheduling, and virtual visits. We’re committed to being helpful, and in doing so, set a new standard of care for your allergy needs. 

What Should I Look for on Labels? 

If you are allergic or sensitive to sesame seed, you should look for it listed in either the ingredients list or allergen statement on food packaging. If it is not included in either one of those sections then you should contact the manufacturer directly for more information about their products. 

A new study in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), found that among those who self-reported an allergic reaction to sesame, more than 56% of products which contained sesame did not declare sesame on the label.

It is important to remember that just because a product does not list “sesame” as an ingredient doesn’t mean that it doesn’t contain sesame seed; many products instead use “tahini”, which is another name for sesame seed paste. 


What Are Some Common Foods Containing Sesame? 

Sesame seeds can be found in many popular dishes such as hummus, falafel, and bagels; they are also often used as a garnish on various salads and appetizers. Additionally, many sauces such as tzatziki or taramasalata contain sesame oil or tahini, which is made from ground-up sesame seeds. It is important to always read labels carefully when purchasing any packaged foods or eating out at restaurants so that you can avoid any potential allergens like sesame seed.  

What Are the Other Major Food Allergens?

The FASTER Act requires food manufacturers to add information on labels of foods. The other eight major allergens include:

  • Milk
  • Egg
  • Fish
  • Crustacean
  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanut
  • Wheat
  • Soybean


Understanding what ingredients your food contains can help ensure your safety when consuming anything prepared outside of your own home. With the official addition of sesame to the major allergen list, it’s now more important than ever for people with allergies to understand how they need to look out for potential allergens like sesame seed in order to protect themselves from possible reactions. By reading labels carefully and doing additional research where necessary, you can make sure that your meals are safe for consumption no matter where they come from!

January 23, 2023

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Dr. Greg Bennett is board certified in both Pediatrics and Allergy/Immunology and has over 10 years of experience in the field of medicine. ‍

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