For the last 17 years, the official list of major food allergens, or “The Big 8” has consisted of milk, egg, fish, shellfish, peanut, tree nut, wheat, and soy. The Big 8 were part of legislation that was signed into law in 2004 requiring manufacturers to indicate on labels when a product was made using any of those eight ingredients, describing them as “major food allergens” because they collectively accounted for “90 percent of food allergies.” Now, sesame will take the coveted ninth spot nationally, as well as soon join the UAS panel of food allergens offered to providers for allergy testing.

On April 23, 2021, the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act was signed into law, declaring sesame as the latest addition to The Big 9 major food allergens recognized by the United States. Effective on January 1, 2023, clear and regulated labeling of sesame as an allergen will be required whereas previously sesame could be labeled as “spices”, “natural flavor”, or “artificial flavor”. This understandably makes it challenging to identify sesame in food products.

Why Sesame?

Currently, more than 1 million people in America are allergic to sesame, according to a 2019 study published in the journal JAMA (the Journal of American Medical Association). Like other food allergens, sesame allergy can produce mild allergy symptoms like itching or hives, however it also has the potential to trigger anaphylaxis, and pose a life-threatening risk to those allergic to it. A sesame allergy is caused by a protein found in the edible seeds of the sesame plan, and therefore also in products made from the seeds such as sesame oil. People allergic to sesame must also watch for ingredients such as tahini, sesamol and gomasio, and foods such as falafel, sushi, hummus, and certain rice. The allergen can also be found in chips, cereals, snack bars and a variety of other foods.

Please see below for a more comprehensive list of sesame containing ingredients and sesame containing foods put together and published by the Food Allergy Research and Education organization (FARE):

Sesame Ingredients

  • Benne, benne seed, benniseed
  • Gingelly, gingelly oil
  • Gomasio (sesame salt)
  • Halvah
  • Sesame flour
  • Sesame oil
  • Sesame paste
  • Sesame salt
  • Sesame seed
  • Sesamol
  • Sesamum indicum
  • Sesemolina
  • Sim sim
  • Tahini, Tahina, Tehina
  • Til

Sesame Food Products

  • Baked goods (such as bagels, bread, breadsticks, 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
  • Falafel
  • Hummus
  • Flavored rice, noodles, risotto, shish kebabs, stews and stir fry
  • Goma-dofu (Japanese dessert)
  • Herbs and herbal drinks
  • Margarine
  • Pasteli (Greek dessert)
  • Processed meats and sausages
  • Protein and energy bars
  • Snack foods (such as pretzels, candy, Halvah, Japanese snack mix and rice cakes)
  • Soups
  • Sushi
  • Tempeh
  • Turkish cake
  • Vegetarian burgers