19 Aug Sesame allergies increasing in US
Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, IL,
analyzed survey data from a nationally representative sample of 50,000 U.S. households.
The analysis reveals that sesame allergy affects more than 1 million adults and children in the
Sesame allergy can arise in children and adults alike. In that sense, the allergy differs from other
food allergies, such as milk and egg, which typically start early in life and often fade in the
The study, which features in the journal JAMA Network Open, is the first to estimate the
nationwide prevalence of sesame allergy.
Our study, says Ruchi S. Gupta, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at Northwestern
University Feinberg School of Medicine shows sesame allergy is prevalent in the U.S. in both
adults and children and can cause severe allergic reactions."
Sesame seed comes from the Sesamum indicum plant. The food industry values sesame seed as a
raw or roasted ingredient, and also for its oil. The seeds are present in many baked goods, such
as bread, bagels, crackers, and cakes.
Sesame seeds also feature in sweets, and Asian, East African, and Indian cuisine. Hulled sesame
the seed is a key ingredient of tahini, a traditional Middle Eastern paste that itself is an ingredient of
Currently, U.S. federal regulation does not require food labels to identify sesame as an
ingredient. This is not the case in other countries, such as Australia and those within the
However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering adding sesame to the list of
eight major food allergens, which currently comprises: milk, eggs, fish, peanuts, crustacean
shellfish, soybeans, tree nuts, and wheat.
The 2014 Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires product labels to
specify whether their contents include any of these major allergy-causing foods. The requirement
also covers proteins that may have originated from those foods.
Prof. Gupta and her colleagues argue that their findings make a case for the FDA to add sesame
to the list.
Food allergy is a serious health issue in the U.S, notes Prof. Gupta and her colleagues in their
study background. They cite estimates that suggest around 8% of children and 10% of adults in
the U.S. are living with food allergies.
For the new research, the team analyzed responses to a nationwide telephone and web survey
that yielded data on more than 80,000 adults and children.
The data included detailed information about suspected food allergens, specific symptoms, and
The data revealed that more than 1.5 million adults and children (0.49% of the U.S. population),
reported having a current sesame allergy.
A more rigorous analysis found that 1.1 million people (0.34% of the U.S. population) reported
either having received a diagnosis of sesame allergy from a doctor or a history of sesame allergy
symptoms that met symptom-report criteria for convincing IgE-mediated allergy.
The researchers also found that many people who reported having a current sesame allergy or
severe allergic reactions are not seeing a doctor to diagnose the condition.
The researchers also found that it is very common for people with a sesame allergy to have
another food allergy as well. This appeared to be the case in around 80 percent of those with
More than half of those reporting an additional food allergy said that they also had peanut
allergy, a third said that they had a tree nut allergy, a quarter said they had an egg allergy, and around
a fifth reported an allergy to cow’s milk.