In 2021, the US Congress passed the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research Act, which, among other things, added sesame to the list of allergens required to include food labels by 2023. New study in Annals of allergy, asthma and immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), found that among those who reported an allergic reaction to sesame, more than 56% of products containing sesame did not declare sesame on the label.
Sesame is the ninth most common childhood food allergy in the United States, but many people do not recognize it on food labels or it is completely absent. What we found in our study was that among those who report events related to accidental ingestion of sesame, many report that they do not know that words like “tahini” mean sesame. Because the word “sesame” is often not used on labels, accidents happen more often. “
Katie Kennedy, MD, allergist, ACAAI member and senior author of the article
The study examined 379 self-reported sesame-related events involving 327 individuals with 360 different clinical adverse reactions. 19 events included a problem with the labeling of sesame that did not lead to a clinical response. Most of the reports (85%) are from parents providing information about events with their children.
“About 48% of allergic reactions require hospitalization or a visit to the emergency department,” said allergist Kim Nguyen, MD, a member of the ACAAI and co-author of the article. “Most of the events (63%) took place at home; about 11% of the events took place in a restaurant, 5% in a friend’s house and 4% of the events took place in a school. The most common reason for reporting an event is an allergic reaction after ingestion (99%), as opposed to exposure to contact alone. “
“Some of the reports are due to products declared to contain ‘spices’ or ‘natural flavors’ and require consumers to call the company or manufacturer to clarify the ingredients,” says Dr Kennedy. One of the reported events occurred in a child with a known allergy to sesame seeds and he ate meat bread made with breadcrumbs. The parents later learned that the “spices” labeled on the breadcrumbs contained sesame seeds.
The authors conclude that clear and specific labeling of sesame products is crucial to prevent side effects, especially anaphylaxis, in people with food allergies.
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI)