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1.5 million people in the US might have sesame allergies. That's more than previously thought

In the United States, the top allergens are required to appear on labels when they're among a product's ingredients. Milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts,...

Posted: Aug 6, 2019 8:39 AM

In the United States, the top allergens are required to appear on labels when they're among a product's ingredients. Milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans are all on the list.

A new study says 1.5 million children and adults in the United States may have a sesame allergy. That's a greater number than previously estimated, and makes it the ninth most common allergy. But sesame isn't required to be listed on food labels.

In October, the US Food and Drug Administration requested more information from researchers, medical providers and consumers on the prevalence and severity of sesame allergies to help guide regulation on labeling. The FDA told CNN that it's still reviewing public comments and has not released new information on sesame regulation.

"We see sesame allergies clinically and how difficult it is for families with sesame allergies to avoid sesame, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to really dig deeper into understanding sesame allergy in the US," said Dr. Ruchi Gupta, co-author of the new study and professor of pediatrics and medicine at Northwestern University.

For the study, published Friday in the journal JAMA Network Open, researchers sent food allergy questionnaires to more than 51,000 households in all 50 states and surveyed 78,800 people.

Researchers estimate about .49% of the US population reports having a sesame allergy and .23% had what's called a "convincing," or true food allergy, with skin, lung, heart or gastrointestinal symptoms. These symptoms included hives, wheezing, heart palpitations, dizziness and belly pain, among others. Others may have been diagnosed with an allergy, but hadn't experienced symptoms.

The .21% of children and .24% of adults estimated to be allergic to sesame in the United States is an increase from the number reported in an earlier, smaller study, which showed a prevalence of .1%.

Sesame on food labels

Sesame is an ingredient found in a variety of spices, sauces and flavorings. And even if food doesn't have sesame, it could still be cooked in sesame oil.

"It's a tricky allergen to control in the kitchen," said Christopher Warren, lead author and epidemiologist at the Center for Food Allergy and Asthma Research at Northwestern University. For example, "in Japanese spices & seasonings, it's almost always present."

On Tuesday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law a measure that requires packaged food in the state to have sesame labeled if it's an ingredient. The policy aligns with those in Australia, Europe, New Zealand and Canada, which all have sesame labeling requirements.

In Canada, sesame labeling has been required since 2012.

"It's important to be aware that we can get accidental exposure and labeling is one of the ways to inform consumers that an allergen may be present," said Dr. Moshe Ben-Shoshan, an associate professor of pediatrics at Montreal Children's Hospital in Canada.

Whether food labeling in Canada has reduced the number of accidental exposures hasn't been proven with studies.

"If something makes sense we don't need to prove it sometimes," Ben-Shoshan said. "I think it should also be in the US. It's a simple measure to install and it could protect lives."

The number of people in the United States who had sesame allergies from unlabeled food products wasn't calculated in the new study, according to Warren. Another limitation of the study was that people self-reported allergies and symptoms, without medical tests to confirm their results.

But even so, the study provides evidence of the "increasing burden of sesame allergy" in the United States, according to Jennifer Protudjer and Dr. Elissa Abrams from the University of Manitoba in Canada, who wrote an editorial alongside the study.

The study "supports an increasing need for diligence and awareness of the role of sesame allergy in the United States," they wrote. "It also suggests that sesame allergy may be a persistent allergy, affecting children and adults, and may result in severe reactions as well."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 153270

Reported Deaths: 3807
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10332104
Hinds10190199
Harrison7244111
Jackson6521124
Rankin5805103
Lee523695
Madison4964107
Forrest388286
Jones367788
Lauderdale3575147
Lafayette334952
Washington3241108
Lamar296650
Oktibbeha251362
Lowndes243864
Bolivar242984
Panola229653
Neshoba2241118
Marshall221250
Leflore207791
Monroe203978
Pontotoc202929
Lincoln194865
Sunflower192555
Warren178757
Tate177051
Union171026
Copiah167040
Pike164758
Yazoo158840
Scott157930
Itawamba156135
Alcorn154828
Pearl River154168
Coahoma151943
Simpson151953
Prentiss149531
Adams144451
Grenada142845
Leake139444
Holmes132361
Tippah128030
Covington127939
George126425
Winston124526
Hancock123640
Wayne120623
Marion118646
Attala117534
Tishomingo110842
Chickasaw109032
Newton108029
Tallahatchie97727
Clay93427
Clarke93053
Jasper84822
Stone80015
Calhoun78113
Walthall77229
Montgomery75825
Carroll74015
Lawrence73414
Smith72816
Noxubee72517
Yalobusha72328
Perry68126
Tunica62319
Greene61222
Claiborne58916
Jefferson Davis58817
Amite55814
Humphreys54719
Benton49918
Quitman4977
Webster46414
Kemper44718
Wilkinson40422
Jefferson36411
Franklin3535
Choctaw3507
Sharkey32317
Issaquena1204
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 249524

Reported Deaths: 3578
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson33064500
Mobile19951362
Madison13596148
Tuscaloosa13246154
Montgomery12435236
Shelby1061677
Baldwin889098
Lee781466
Morgan686150
Etowah643966
Calhoun6430121
Marshall635355
Houston537738
DeKalb492236
Cullman451542
Limestone433345
St. Clair432555
Lauderdale422354
Elmore412964
Walker3710111
Talladega359354
Jackson329823
Colbert329642
Blount299740
Autauga278042
Franklin256434
Coffee248315
Dale236254
Chilton227438
Dallas226832
Russell22383
Covington220434
Escambia198931
Tallapoosa184391
Chambers177950
Pike159914
Clarke159819
Marion143636
Winston135123
Lawrence131636
Pickens125718
Geneva12438
Marengo123124
Bibb119617
Barbour117811
Butler117842
Randolph104921
Cherokee103424
Hale97831
Fayette92516
Washington92219
Clay92024
Henry8756
Lowndes80229
Monroe79011
Cleburne77814
Macon74522
Crenshaw72030
Bullock70219
Perry6906
Lamar6898
Conecuh68814
Wilcox64218
Sumter58622
Greene42818
Choctaw42713
Coosa3544
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