Sesame – The New Allergen

— By Kayla Parsons, MS, Ph.D. Student, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Did you know that 1 in 10 adults and 1 in 13 children have food allergies? If someone has a food allergy, their immune system negatively reacts to specific allergens, found in products including foods, drinks and supplements. Food allergies can vary in both symptoms and severity, based on the individual. Up until recently, the top eight most common food allergens in the United States were milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. As of January 2023, there has been a new allergen added to the list: sesame.

New Sesame Labeling

As of January 1, 2023, the Food and Drug Association (FDA) has added sesame to the list of major food allergens. Sesame contributes to many serious food allergy reactions in the United States, with an estimated half a percent of children and adults having a sesame allergy. With sesame’s new label of being a major allergen, manufacturers are now required to label products containing sesame. Sesame containing products may have it listed in parentheses after the name of an ingredient on the product packaging. For example, “Ingredients: Spices (sesame), natural flavor (sesame)”. Sesame can also be listed immediately after or next to the list of ingredients in a “contains” statement, such as “Contains: Sesame and dairy”.

It is important to know that food products in stores that were previously purchased before January 2023 do not need to be removed from store shelves, despite possibly lacking the sesame labeling. During this transition period, be cautious of food labeling if you are trying to avoid sesame. Always check the product label prior to purchasing and if you still have questions, contact the manufacturer or distributor of the product. Check out the list below for common food sources of sesame.

Common Sources of Sesame

  • Sesame seeds
  • Sesame oil
  • Asian foods
  • Breads
  • Granola
  • Protein bars
  • Baked goods
  • Margarine
  • Dips, such as hummus
  • Sushi
  • Chips
  • Processed meats
  • Soup