Sesame Seed Allergy: A Growing Problem?

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD

Doctors have found a steady and significant increase in the number of reports of allergic reactions to sesame over the past decades. While the European Commission (EC) and Canada have added sesame to the list of major food allergens for food labeling purposes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not include sesame in its list of allergy-causing foods for labeling purposes.

Sesame seeds and sesame seed oil are used in the food industry (primarily in the baking industry) as well as in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.

Doctors monitored published reports of allergic reactions to sesame products from 1950 (the first documented case of an allergic reaction to sesame) to the present. They noted that a study of Australian children showed that allergic reactions to sesame ranked fourth behind reactions to egg, milk, and peanuts, and sesame was the third most common allergy-inducing food in Israeli children. Sesame products in cosmetics and ointments have been reported to cause allergic dermatitis, an inflammatory condition of the skin. Workers in the baking industry have also developed allergic reactions (including asthma) to sesame products. Fatal anaphylactic reactions (severe reactions that include swelling of the airways and difficulty breathing) have also occurred with sesame.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/1/2014