A 2010 survey showed that hundreds of thousands of Americans are affected by sesame allergy. Although the exact prevalence of sesame allergy is unknown, several reports have shown that sesame allergy prevalence has increased significantly in the worldwide population over the past two decades.
Sesame is not currently included in the list of major allergens that must be declared by food manufacturers as part of the Food Allergen Labeling Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA), although FARE supports the addition of sesame to the list of “major food allergens” that are required to be identified on ingredient labels of processed foods. In the meantime, FARE continues to expand its educational resources to support individuals with sesame allergy in avoiding their allergen.
Ingredients to Avoid with Sesame Allergy
The list below includes information about ingredients to avoid if you have a sesame allergy, including uncommon names for the ingredient.
- Benne, benne seed, benniseed
- Gingelly, gingelly oil
- Gomasio (sesame salt)
- Sesame flour
- Sesame oil*
- Sesame paste
- Sesame salt
- Sesame seed
- Sesamum indicum
- Sim sim
- Tahini, Tahina, Tehina
*Studies show that in general, most individuals with specific food protein allergies can safely consume highly refined oils derived from the original food source (examples include highly refined peanut and soybean oil). However, because sesame oil is not refined, it is recommended that it be avoided by individuals with sesame allergy.
Sesame in Spices or Flavorings
Sesame may also be included and undeclared in ingredients such as flavors or spice blends. If you are unsure whether or not a product could contain sesame, you should call the manufacturer to ask about their ingredients and manufacturing practices. Because spice blend and flavoring recipes are generally considered proprietary information, it is advised to specifically inquire if sesame is used as an ingredient, rather than simply asking what ingredients are used in a flavoring or spice blend.
Foods that May Contain Sesame
Sesame has been found as an ingredient in the food items listed below. Please note this list is not all inclusive. It does not imply that sesame is always present in these foods. It is intended to serve as a reminder to always be vigilant and ask questions about ingredients before eating a food that you have not prepared yourself.
Examples of foods that may contain sesame include:
- Asian cuisine (sesame oil is commonly used in cooking)
- Baked goods (such as bagels, bread, breadsticks, hamburger buns and rolls)
- Bread crumbs
- Cereals (such as granola and muesli)
- Chips (such as bagel chips, pita chips and tortilla chips)
- Crackers (such as melba toast and sesame snap bars)
- Dipping sauces (such as baba ghanoush, hummus and tahini sauce)
- Dressings, gravies, marinades and sauces
- Ethnic foods such as flavored rice, noodles, risotto, shish kebabs, stews and stir fry
- Goma-dofu (Japanese dessert)
- Herbs and herbal drinks
- Pasteli (Greek desert)
- Processed meats and sausages
- Protein and energy bars
- Snack foods (such as pretzels, candy, Halvah, Japanese snack mix and rice cakes)
- Turkish cake
- Vegetarian burgers
Non-Food Items that May Contain Sesame
Sesame may also be found in non-food items, including:
- Cosmetics (including soaps and creams)
- Nutritional supplements
- Pet foods
In non-food items, the scientific name for sesame, Sesamum indicum, may be on the label.
Download our PDF on how to read a label for a sesame-free diet.
View FARE’s "Understanding and Managing Sesame Allergy” webinar and presentation slides.