Seeds are a good inexpensive source of protein, and we’re eating more of them. Yet seeds hide in unlikely places. Sesame is the only seed trigger recognized as a top allergen in the United States, a new status which takes effect January 2023. In Canada, both sesame and mustard seed have priority allergen status.
While allergic reactions to seeds other than sesame may not be common, they do occur. Medical studies show people have reacted to mustard seed, sunflower, poppy seeds, flax seeds – and even perilla, an Asian seed used in spices.
There are newer medical reports of anaphylaxis to hemp seed. This is concerning given the commercial availability of foods that contain hemp seed or its derivatives.
Seeds can be quite insidious because, not only are they a tasty source of protein, but their oils are used for cosmetics, lotions, and even adhesive bandages.
If you are allergic to one or more seeds that aren’t required to be labeled on packaged foods, be careful. Generic label descriptions like “spices” and vegetable oil may mask that a seed protein is hiding there.
While sesame is now regulated in North America, labeling is not always as consistent as it is meant to be. Plus, the seed and its flour is often used in supermarket bakeries and restaurants, which aren’t required to label in the same fashion as packaged foods. Watch as well for food types listed below, which often will contain sesame.
Seed Allergic: Possible Sesame Sources
Aqua Libra (herbal drink)
Baked goods: breads, cookies, pastries, bagels, buns
Bread crumbs, breadsticks, cereals, crackers, melba toast, muesli
Dips and spreads, e.g., hummus, chutney
Dressings, gravies, marinades, salads, sauces, soups
Ethnic foods, e.g., flavored rice, noodles, shish kebabs, stews, stir fry
Herbs, seasoning, spice
Processed meats, sausages
Risotto (rice dish)
Sesame oil, sesame salt (gomasio)
Snack foods: bagel / pita chips, candy, granola bars, halvah, pretzels, rice cakes, sesame snap bars
Other Names for Sesame Seeds
Benne, benne seed, benniseed
Gingelly, gingelly oil
Foreign Names for Sesame Seeds
From the Theepicentre.com:
Bene Seeds, Beniseed, Benne, Gingelly, Gingili, Gingilli, Semsem, Simsim, Teel, Til
Spanish: ajonjoli, sesamo
Arabic: tahina, tahine, tahini
Chinese: chi mah, hak chi mah (black sesame)
Indian: gingelly (oil)
Japanese: goma, kuro goma (black sesame)
Malay: bene, bijan