Sesame: the latest top allergen on the block

Dr Ruchi Gupta explains why the recent decision to declare sesame as a top allergen in the US will help so many consumers to live and eat more safely.

An estimated 32 million US adults and children have food allergies.1,2 As food is such an integral part of everyday life, this growing public health concern has substantial psychosocial, financial and physical impacts on adults and children.3-7

For individuals with severe food allergies, accidentally eating an allergen can cause life-threatening allergic reactions. As there is currently no cure for food allergies, they must practice constant vigilance to avoid their allergens, especially when evaluating pre-packaged labels on food.1,2,8,9

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) is a US law that requires food ingredient labels to clearly identify the top eight food allergens; these are milk, egg, fin fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy.8,9,10 These allergens are associated with 90 percent of food allergy reactions. However, precautionary allergen labeling (PAL) such as “may contain allergen” are not currently required on labels by manufacturers, often resulting in confusion from consumers about the meaning and safety of certain labels.8,9


Sesame is an allergen that affects over a million adults and children in the US.

Research conducted by Warren et al. has also identified sesame as an allergen of concern in the US, impacting over a million adults and children.11 Due to the severity of sesame reactions and the number of products that contain sesame, the food allergy community has been advocating for its inclusion in the mandatory list of allergens on packaged foods for several years.

Thankfully, these advocacy efforts resulted in the passing of the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act of 2021 (FASTER Act of 2021), which added sesame as a ninth top allergen.12,13 As of 1 January 2023, sesame is required to be identified in food ingredient labels as a top allergen, which will help the growing number of US consumers with sesame allergy avoid accidental ingestion.12,13