A recent review of medical literature suggests that the prevalence of sesame seed allergies is steadily increasing. Investigators found that the number of cases of reported allergies to sesame seeds has increased dramatically over the last 50 years, with most reports coming from developed countries.
Some countries have now listed sesame allergies among the most common. Health authorities in Canada have included sesame on their list of major food allergens. Under legislation passed last year, products that contain the eight major allergens -- milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts such as walnuts, wheat and soybeans -- must state so on the label.
Allergic reactions to sesame can range from itchy skin and a runny nose to anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially fatal systemic response that includes symptoms such as breathing difficulty and swelling of the mouth and throat.
It is unclear as to whether or not the jump in reported cases is from an actual increase in number of allergies, or just an increased awareness and recognition. Regardless, researchers speculate that sesame allergies might be following the same trend as peanut allergies, which have doubled among U.S. children in recent years.
Sesame seeds are most commonly found in breads and crackers, while sesame oil and paste are found in salad dressings and soups. Sesame oil is also commonly found in the cosmetic industry, where it is commonly used in body lotions and lipsticks.
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