Sesame Seed Allergy and Cross-Reactivity

Sesame seeds have been used for a variety of reasons for thousands of years. They are available in three different colors—white, black, and brown. Sesame seeds and the oil extracted from the seeds are commonly used in recipes; sesame oils are found in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

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What Is Sesame Allergy?

Allergy to sesame is not new. Though it was first described in 1950, it seems to be a growing problem. In January 2023, sesame will become the ninth allergen that will need to be declared on food labels in the United States. In 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (or FASTER) Act of 2021, which added sesame to the list, along with:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Crustaceans shellfish (e.g., crab, lobster, or shrimp)
  • Tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybeans

The symptoms of sesame allergy can include:

Some people experience hives as a result of direct exposure to products containing sesame allergens.

Sesame allergy can affect people of all ages. Some people outgrow it, while in others it persists.

Does Sesame Allergy Place a Person at Risk for Other Food Allergies?

Because sesame allergens are similar in biochemical structure to peanut allergens, people with sesame allergy are at risk for having allergic reactions as a result of eating peanuts, and vice-versa. This is known as cross-reactivity—when one substance is similar to another and the immune system treats them both the same. There also appears to be cross-reactivity between sesame allergens and rye, kiwi, poppy seed, and various tree nuts (such as hazelnut, black walnut, cashew, macadamia, and pistachio). People with sesame allergy should talk with their physicians about which other food they may need to avoid.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Department of Health and Human Services. The Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act of 2021.

  2. Teodorowicz M, Terlouw RJ, Jansen A, Savelkoul HFJ, Ruinemans-Koerts J. Immunological characterization of Dutch sesame seed-allergic patients. Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2016;169(1):13-22. doi:10.1159/000443641

  3. Lakshmi C. Allergic contact dermatitis (type IV hypersensitivity) and type I hypersensitivity following aromatherapy with Ayurvedic oils (dhanwantharam thailam, eladi coconut oil) presenting as generalized erythema and pruritus with flexural eczema. Indian J Dermatol. 2014;59(3):283–286. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.131402

By Daniel More, MD
Daniel More, MD, is a board-certified allergist and clinical immunologist. He is an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine and currently practices at Central Coast Allergy and Asthma in Salinas, California.