Top 9? Growing Prevalence of Sesame Food Allergy

Those in the food allergy community know the top eight food allergens like the back of their hand:

  1. Milk
  2. Eggs
  3. Fish
  4. Shellfish
  5. Tree nuts
  6. Peanuts
  7. Wheat
  8. Soy

The talk about adding sesame to the top eight food allergens — making it the new “top nine”— has been a big topic in recent years.

With new research and information about the prevalence and severity of sesame allergy, what should we know? Let’s dive deeper into sesame allergy and its impact.

Sesame Allergy

A food allergy to sesame can range from minor to severe, just like with other food allergies. Those with a minor allergy may react with:

  • Itching in the mouth, throat or lips
  • Fatigue
  • Runny nose or congestion
  • Upset stomach or loose stool

Those with a more severe allergy may respond to sesame with:

  • Hives, eczema, skin itching
  • Anaphylaxis

It’s important to note that the severity of one reaction does not predict future reactions.

Recent research shows that over one million people in the U.S. report having an allergy to sesame, putting it in the ranks of other food allergens like soy and fish. Because of the growing prevalence in both kids and adults, the FDA, and many who suffer with this allergy, are hoping for clearer labeling to help avoid sesame.

Food Labeling and the FDA

In recent weeks, the FDA has asked food manufacturers to voluntarily label sesame on their products like they are required to do with the top eight food allergens. Though labeling sesame is not a requirement at this time, the FDA hopes that with this new guidance, manufacturers will understand the importance for the safety of their consumers.

Current regulations for labeling are handled by the Food Allergen Labeling Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) for foods regulated by the FDA. In current labels, the top eight food allergens must be explicitly identified. For example, if flour is a listed ingredient, it will be listed as:

flour (wheat)

Or, at the end of the label, an additional line may be added that identifies all of the top eight food allergens that are included in the product.

Another element of a label identifies if a product “may contain” a food allergen.

Accurate and visible labeling is so important for helping those allergic, or their caregivers and loved ones, the ability to quickly and effectively make a decision on food safety.

Treating the Cause

The reason behind the push for labeling sesame is to help those who are allergic avoid their problematic allergen. Avoidance has been the main course of action for those with food allergy, but there is always the worry of accidental exposure, no matter how careful you are.

Treating the cause of your sesame, or other food allergy with immunotherapy, is the only way to avoid reactions, because it retrains your body to not respond to problematic allergens. Sublingual immunotherapy — or allergy drop immunotherapy—following the La Crosse Method Protocol, treats food allergies starting at a much lower dose level than the amount that triggers reactions. This small but precise amount, placed under the tongue, is enough for the immune system to build allergic tolerance over time, yet is below the level that triggers a serious reaction.

For some, building a level of tolerance will protect them from serious reactions if accidentally exposed, and others may find that they are able to reintroduce the food back into their diet. Additionally, treating the cause of your environmental allergies can help lower your total allergen load.

Get in touch with Allergychoices if you’re interested in finding a provider near you that offers treatment following the La Crosse Method Protocol.