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Navigating Allergies and Food Sensitivities

Sesame Allergies

Sesame Allergy Info

sesame free

Sesame seeds have been used for a variety of reasons for thousands of years. They are available in 3 different colors – white, black and brown. Sesame seeds are used by various cultures for food, including by Western societies as garnishes on fast food. Sesame oil is extracted from the seeds and used in recipes, as well as in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.1

Allergy to sesame is not a new problem. Though it was first described in 1950, it seems to be a growing problem, with some researchers believing that its occurrence has increased more than any other type of food allergy over the past 10 to 20 years. Sesame allergy seems to affect all ages, which implies that this food allergy is not commonly outgrown.1,2

Because sesame allergens are similar in biochemical structure to peanut allergens, people with sesame allergy are at risk for having allergic reactions as a result of eating peanuts, and vice-versa. This is known as cross-reactivity – when one substance is so similar to another that the immune system treats them both the same. There also appears to be cross-reactivity between sesame allergens and various tree nuts (such as hazelnut, black walnut, cashew, macadamia and pistachio). 1,2  

If a person is allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, there is a good chance he or she is allergic to sesame as well.1,2 In a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Asthma, 70% of the patients allergic to sesame were also allergic to tree nuts, while 65%  of patients allergic to sesame were allergic to peanuts.2 In a separate study, Boston researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston found that kids who have had allergic reactions to tree nuts are nearly three times more likely to have allergic reactions to sesame seeds.3

Therefore, people with sesame allergy should avoid peanuts and nuts until an allergist can perform allergy testing for these related foods.1

Table 1 list names, products and ingredients that contain, or may contain, sesame seed.3

Table 1: Sources of sesame seed
Names of ingredients that
contain sesame seed:
Names of ingredients that
may contain sesame seed:
  • Benne
  • Gomasio (sesame salt)
  • Falafel vegetable burgers
  • Halvah
  • Hummus
  • Seed paste
  • Sesame seed
  • Sesame seed oil
  • Sesamol
  • Sesemolina
  • Sesamum indicum
  • Sim sim
  • Tahini (Tehina)
  • Turkish cake
  • Appetizers
  • Asian food
  • Biscuits
  • Baked goods such as bagels, bread, buns, rolls, pastries)
  • Candy
  • Chutneys
  • Confection bars
  • Crackers
  • Gluten free foods
  • Middle Eastern food
  • Muesli
  • Processed meats
  • Risotto
  • Sauces
  • Sausages
  • Snack foods such as trail mix, granola bars, protein bars, pita chips
  • Verge burgers
  • Vegetable oil
 Sesame seed is also known as Anjonjoli, Benne, Gingelly, Simsin, Til, or Teel.


  • Cosmetics that may contain sesame oil include body oils, lipsticks, moisturizing creams, soaps.    
  • Sesame seed is sometimes also used in medications, to include the use of sesame oil in some intramuscular injections and ointments.
  • Sesame seeds can also be found in some pet food and livestock feed.

Citations

1

About.com: Allergies.

Sesame Seed Allergy.

3

Stutius LM et al.

AAAA&I, Washington, DC, March 2009.

Characterizing the Relationship Between Peanut and Sesame Allergy in Children.