Open Sesame: Our Ninth Major Allergen?

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You can recite the “Top 8” allergens in your sleep, but it looks like the long-awaited #9 — sesame — may be coming soon to an ingredients label near you.

The Top 8 list (milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybean) hasn’t been updated since 2004. That was almost 12 YEARS AGO — the entire lifetime of the Gosselin sextuplets!

These eight allergens accounted for 90 per cent of the allergies in the U.S. at the time. But many consider sesame to be the ninth major allergen and it’s finally getting some major recognition. 

sesame allergy[ original photo credit ]

The recently introduced Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2015 includes a section that requires sesame to be included on the list of major food allergens. That step would compel the Secretary of Health and Human Services to implement a final regulation no later than three years after enactment for determining how sesame must be disclosed on food labels.

In Canada, the European Union, and Australia, sesame and sesame-based ingredients are required by law to be labelled on packaged foods. Many U.S. families, like Roo’s — her oldest daughter has a life-threatening sesame allergy — are hopeful the FDA follows suit.

Robert Wood, M.D., director of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, believes sesame allergies have increased more than any other type of food allergy over the past 10-20 years.

Why the rise in sesame allergies? Scientists believe it could be that more Americans are eating hummus and halva which both contain tahini (sesame paste). In Israel, where sesame has been a top food for decades, sesame allergies are even more prevalent than tree nut or peanut allergies!

Sesame oil has also become popular in cooking — and unlike corn oil or peanut oil (which are refined so there is little or no allergenic protein remaining) sesame oil is not refined and still highly dangerous to someone with a sesame allergy.

Many vegetarian burgers contain sesame, and it’s commonly added to rice cakes, granola bars, sauces, soups, salad dressings, and even margarine. Certain cosmetics, soaps, hair-care products, medications, and sunscreens also contain traces of sesame.

Currently, only three of 19 major U.S. food manufacturers voluntarily label sesame on their products. On many products, sesame is hidden behind words like “natural seasonings” “tahini” “natural flavor” or simply “spices.”

H/T Food Safety News

Heather Laura Clarke, a contributing writer at Scratch or Sniff, lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with her high-school sweetheart husband, seven-year-old son, and five-year-old daughter. She writes for newspapers and magazines across Canada and the U.S., and blogs about her family life at Heather's Handmade Life. Follow her adventures on Twitter or Instagram.

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