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Member Research and Reports

Northwestern: Study Indicates Sesame Allergy is More Common than Previously Recognized

Sesame allergy affects more than 1 million children and adults in the U.S., more than previously known, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.

But sesame labeling is currently not required by law as are the other top eight allergens like peanut and milk, and is often labeled in a potentially confusing manner, such as tahini. This increases the risk of accidental ingestion.

The new study provides the first up-to-date estimates on the current prevalence of sesame allergy among U.S. children and adults in all 50 states.

“Our study shows sesame allergy is prevalent in the U.S. in both adults and children and can cause severe allergic reactions,” said lead study author Dr. Ruchi Gupta, professor of pediatrics and of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “It is important to advocate for labeling sesame in packaged food. Sesame is in a lot of foods as hidden ingredients. It is very hard to avoid.”

Dr. Gupta also is director of the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research (CFAAR), which is housed within the Institute for Public Health and Medicine at Feinberg.

The paper published Aug. 2 in JAMA Network Open.

The study directly informs ongoing regulatory rule-making by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, which is currently considering whether sesame should be added to the list of key food allergens for which mandatory product labeling is required. Unlike in other countries (the European Union and Australia), current U.S. law does not require sesame-containing products be labeled.

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