Sesame is listed as a priority allergen in Canada. This page focuses on facts specific to sesame allergy, available resources, and special considerations related to this allergen.
Facts about sesame allergy
- Sesame allergy affects 0.1% of children under 18 years of age and 0.2% of adults in Canada[i].
- Limited data is available on the evolution of sesame allergy over time. In a study of 234 Israeli children, researchers found that the allergy is outgrown in 30% of cases by the age of 3 years[ii].
- People allergic to sesame often have other food allergies[iii].
- The allergens in sesame are grouped as two main categories: glycoproteins and sesamole, sesamine, and sesamolamine. These three proteins are similar to lignin, the substance found in cells that contribute to their rigid and impermeable qualities[iv].
- The proportion of oil in sesame seeds can be as high as 40% to 50% of the seed[v]. Sesame oil can be used for consumption or in the manufacturing of cosmetics or medicines. In either case, allergenic proteins are present. However, the allergenic potential of sesame oil intended for consumption would be higher than that of oil used in the manufacturing of non-food products. Differing extraction methods may affect how allergenic the final product is.
- Allergic reactions to sesame differ from one person to another. Symptoms can range from gastrointestinal disorders to anaphylaxis, allergic rhinitis, urticaria, and oral allergy syndrome [vi].
- Sesame allergy can present as contact dermatitis. This type of non-IgE mediated allergy is actually a delayed reaction following skin contact with a cosmetic product containing sesame oil. The reaction is believed to be caused by the presence of lignin-like allergens (sesamole, sesamine, and sesamolamine)[vii].
Sesame – REFERENCE GUIDE
|Terms that may indicate the presence of sesame (non-exhaustive list)|
|Beni, gercelli, gingelly, jinjli, sesame oil||Benne||Benne seeds|
|Sesame salt (gomasio)||Sesame seeds||Sesamole/sesamoline|
|Sesame paste||Sesamum indicum||Simsim|
|Tahina||Tahini (sesame butter)||Til/teel|
|Health Canada’s food allergen labelling regulations established in 2012 prohibit use of these terms. Manufacturers must declare the presence of sesame in the list of ingredients either on the label of their product or in the words “Contains”. However, it is important to keep those terms in mind when travelling, as regulations vary from one country to another. In some cases, it may also be useful to know them when we are offered artisanal or homemade products.|
|Foods that are likely sources of sesame (non-exhaustive list)|
|Muesli||Sesame bars||Sesame butter (tahini)|
|Sesame oil||Sesame salt (gomasio)||Tortilla chips|
|Vegetarian burgers|| || |
|Foods that are possible sources of sesame (non-exhaustive list)|
|Aqua Libra® (herbal drink)||Baked products (e.g. bread, cookies, cakes, breadsticks, bagels)||Ethnic foods (e.g., flavoured rice, noodles, chickpea kebabs, stir-fry dishes)|
|Crackers||Dipping sauces||Flavouring agents|
|Margarine||Melba Crackers||Mixed spices|
|Vegetable pies||Vinaigrettes|| |
|Possible sources of sesame in commonly used products (non-exhaustive list)|
|Cosmetics||Topical oils (for skin use)||Lubricants|
|Fungicides|| || |
|Note: To find out if sesame is present in commonly used products, it is important to read the labels and contact the manufacturer. Food allergen labelling regulations apply only to packaged foods; they do not apply to non-food products.|
|Sesame replacements and cooking without sesame||As sesame is not a staple food, it is generally possible to exclude it from recipes. In the preparation of hummus, sesame can be replaced by plain yogurt, though, this substitution can alter the taste of the recipe.|
Resources for people with sesame allergy
[i] Soller, S. et coll. (2015). Adjusting for nonresponse bias corrects overestimates of food allergy prevalence. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 3(2), 291-293. DOI 10.1016/j.jaip.2014.11.006
[ii] Aaronov, D. et coll. (décembre 2008). Natural history of food allergy in infants and children in Israel. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 100(6):637-640. DOI 10.1016/S1081-1206(10)60228-1
[iii] Dalal, I. (2012). Sesame seed food allergy. Current Allergy Asthma Reports, 12:339-345. DOI 10.1007/s11882-012-0267-2
[iv] Dalal, I. (2012). Sesame seed food allergy. Current Allergy Asthma Reports, 12:339-345. DOI 10.1007/s11882-012-0267-2
[v] Agne P. S. E. et coll. (2003). Allergie au sésame. Revue française d’allergologie et d’immunologie clinique, 43:507-516. DOI 10.1016/j.allerg.2003.08.002
[vi] Gangur, V. et coll. (juillet 2005). Sesame allergy: a growing food allergy of global proportions. Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 95(1):4-11. DOI 10.1016/S1081-1206(10)61181-7
[vii] Dalal, I. (2012). Sesame seed food allergy. Current Allergy Asthma Reports, 12:339-345. DOI 10.1007/s11882-012-0267-2