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2/6/23 blog post

sesame now on the list of major allergens

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Starting January 1, 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is requiring sesame to be listed as an allergen on all packaged foods, including dietary supplements. Sesame is joining eight other foods on the major food allergy list:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybean

To understand more about this allergy and what it means to consumers, we sat down with David Morris, MD, division chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at Dayton Children’s Hospital.

what does the FDA requirement mean?

The addition of sesame to the list of major allergies means that food producers will have to place labels indicating sesame as an ingredient on all food labels. The new label will have to go on anything produced after January 1, 2023. Existing items on shelves do not have to be removed so if you are allergic to sesame, be careful during this transition.

how common are sesame allergies?

Sesame allergy has been increasing and it is estimated to effect over 1 million people in the U.S. Labeling laws in other countries such as Europe, Canada, Japan, UK, New Zealand and Australia have been requiring sesame to be labeled for quite some time, so the U.S. is aligning its laws with these other countries.

who is most at risk for a sesame allergy?

Sesame allergy can occur at any age, however recent studies suggest around 3-years old is a common age for diagnosis. The same study suggests that those with a sesame allergy are also likely to suffer from other allergic diseases such as eczema and asthma.

what are common symptoms of a sesame allergy?

Serious allergy symptoms may include:

  • Wheezing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Possibly passing out

how is a sesame allergy diagnosed?

Patients may experience the symptoms mentioned above. If your child is experiencing any of the symptoms above after having sesame, go the emergency department for treatment or call 911. After emergency care, the patient will need an evaluation with a board-certified allergist.

During an allergy evaluation, the doctor will review the history of the reaction as well as a physical examination. The patient will likely undergo testing for a sesame allergy. Testing may occur via a skin test or a blood test (and sometimes both). If history and testing do not suggest a sesame allergy, a food challenge may be necessary. A food challenge is when a food is eaten under observation of the allergist.

what foods should patients avoid if they have or suspect a sesame allergy?

Baked goods (such as breads), salad dressings/sauces (Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine), and hummus are most common for sesame. It is always important to read food labels. With the new FDA law, the label should be clear but anything produced prior to January 1, 2023 should be read very carefully.

If you think your child make have an allergy to sesame or any of the other eight major allergies, schedule online with one of our board-certified allergist and immunologist.

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David Morris, MD

division chief allergy / immunology
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