August 7, 2019 11:37 am
Updated: August 7, 2019 11:41 am

Sesame could be the 9th most prevalent food allergy: study

WATCH: Sesame allergies seem to be a lot more common than previously thought.


At least one million people in the United States are allergic to sesame — a lot more than previously thought.

Researchers at the Northwestern Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research recently conducted online and phone surveys with 40,453 adults and 38,408 children.

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They found that 0.49 per cent of the population reported a sesame allergy, while 0.23 per cent has had what’s known as a “convincing” sesame allergy (with skin, lung, heart or gastrointestinal symptoms).

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Sesame is found in many foods, from baked goods to cereal, chips and crackers.

Symptoms of a sesame allergy can range in severity, but an allergic reaction commonly causes hives, wheezing, dizziness and abdomen pain.

Sesame can also cause anaphylaxis, a more severe reaction that can cause trouble breathing and a drop in blood pressure. Anaphylactic reactions can be fatal.

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According to the report, the number of people allergic to sesame is concerning because sesame is not yet among the allergens required to be listed on food labels by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Currently, the FDA recognizes eight “major food allergens“: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish (e.g. crab, lobster and shrimp), tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.

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However, sesame could soon be added to the list. In October 2018, the agency requested information about sesame allergies from clinicians and researchers. The FDA told CNN it’s still reviewing the data collected and has yet to make a decision about regulation.

In their conclusion, researchers wrote that “sesame allergy may be a persistent allergy, affecting children and adults, and may result in severe reactions as well.”

They believe the study “supports an increasing need for diligence and awareness of the role of sesame allergy in the United States.”

Sesame is already a ‘priority allergen’ in Canada

Sesame was declared a priority food allergen by Health Canada in 2012.

This means all labelling for food that contains sesame must clearly state that the ingredient is present, or that the food “may contain” sesame.

Approximately 2.6 million Canadians live with food allergies, and according to a recent study, roughly 73,000 Canadians are allergic to sesame. About 7,000 of those are children.

Read all food labels closely

People who are allergic to sesame should read labels every time they shop, as manufacturers may change their recipes or use different ingredients for varieties of the same product.

According to Health Canada, other names for sesame sometimes used on food labels include: benne, gingelly, seeds, sesamol, sesamum indicum, sim sim, til and tahini (sesame paste).

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If you’re not sure whether a food contains sesame and you’re allergic, you shouldn’t eat it.

Non-food sources of sesame include adhesive bandages, cosmetics, drugs, fungicides and insecticides, lubricants, ointments and topical oils, pet food and sesame meal for livestock.

If your child has an allergy…

Beatrice Povolo, director of advocacy and media relations at Food Allergy Canada, previously told Global News parents of children with allergies (and the children, depending on their age) should practise a triple check when it comes to labels.

For parents with younger children in particular, this could also mean teaching them exactly what they are allergic to and helping them understand how to read those words on packages.

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“This also includes not accepting food from others in a school setting or outside of school, or sending kids to events with their own snacks,” she said, adding that often when it comes to birthday parties or field trips, parents should be sending along food their child can eat.

Parents should also let schools, teachers and other parents know about their child’s allergies.

“Managing food allergies, especially for children, is a shared responsibility, requiring the support of others to help keep them safe,” Povolo said.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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