Sesame allergy appears to become increasingly common in
children and adults and research has shown that it is now the 9th most common
type of food allergy in the US.
Sesame allergy can cause severe allergic reactions with
multiple organ system involvement (also known as anaphylaxis). As sesame is not
listed as a major food allergen, consumers may be vulnerable to accidental
exposure to this allergen. Sesame is present in a wide, and growing, variety of
food products in the form of seeds, oils and pastes. Some cosmetics,
medications, supplements and pet food also contain sesame.
“It is important for consumers to be aware of sesame allergies,” said Ruchi S.
Gupta, MD, MPH. “With evidence mounting that sesame allergy is on the rise, and
can result in severe reactions, we are hopeful that the Food and Drug
Administration will take these data into account as they determine whether or
not to add sesame to their list of major food allergens.”
The study was first presented at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American
Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). Data was collected via a
nationally-representative survey of over 50 000 US households, resulting in
responses for 78 853 U.S. children and adults. Complex survey weighting
procedures and rigorous symptom-report criteria were used to identify probable
cases of sesame allergy while also reducing bias.
It is now estimated that at least 0.2% of children and adults in the United
States are allergic to sesame, which approaches the prevalence rates of a
number of well-known allergens such as soy and pistachio. The highest
age-specific prevalence rates were observed among 18-29 year-olds (0.33%) with
the lowest rates observed among adults over age 60 (0.09%). Data collected from
the survey also found that over half of individuals with a sesame allergy have
received care in an emergency department for food allergy in their lifetime.
Another 38% report at least one severe allergic reaction to sesame, with one in
three reporting a sesame-allergic reaction that was previously treated with an
epinephrine auto-injector. Approximately four in five sesame-allergic patients
have additional food allergies.