What is it?

Sesame is a flowering plant with oily seeds

Sesame is also known as sesamum indicum, benne, gingelly, til/teel, simsim, ajonjoli (labelling in different countries)

What do I need to know?

Sesame allergy is the most common type of allergy to a seed and it is increasing in the UK. This may be due to increasing consumption (Allergy UK 2012)

13% of the Anaphylaxis Campaign members are allergic to sesame (Anaphylaxis Campaign 2014)

Since Nov 2005 the law states that companies need to specify sesame in pre-packed foods (Food Standards Agency 2016)

Some people can tolerate sesame seeds whole as the seed is not broken and the protein is therefore not exposed

People who are allergic to sesame may also react to other seeds (e.g. poppy seeds), nuts, rye and kiwi (Anaphylaxis Campaign 2014)

Restaurant food presents the highest risk. Peanut allergy is well recognised, but catering staff often do not appreciate that sesame allergy is just as serious (Allergy UK 2012)

What are the symptoms?

  • Can be fatal (anaphylaxis)
  • Difficulty breathing, especially if the person has asthma
  • Swelling of the face, mouth and throat
  • Itchy throat
  • Itchy skin rash (hives)
  • Feeling faint and dizzy

What should I avoid?

  • Furikake
  • Gomashio
  • Halva
  • Houmous
  • Sesame (sesamum indicum)
  • Sesame oil
  • Sesame paste
  • Sesame seeds
  • Tahini

What should I check?

  • Asian dishes, e.g. Chinese, Thai, Malaysian
  • Bagels
  • Biscuits
  • Bread
  • Breadsticks
  • Chinese stir fry oils
  • Chutneys
  • Confectionary
  • Crackers
  • Curries
  • Dips
  • Health food snacks, e.g. sesame snaps
  • Herbal drinks
  • Japanese foods
  • Middle Eastern foods
  • Mixed spices
  • Muesli
  • Noodles
  • Pies
  • Pre-packed delicatessen foods
  • Processed foods, e.g. meats
  • Rice cakes
  • Risottos
  • Salad dressings
  • Salads
  • Samosas
  • Sauces
  • Sausages
  • Spreads
  • Soups
  • Stir fries
  • Thai food
  • Turkish dishes
  • Veggie burgers


Allergy UK (2012) 

Anaphylaxis Campaign (2014) 

Food Standards Agency (2016) 

North West Allergy & Immunology Network - North West NHS (2011)

Please note this information has been produced using only reliable and evidence-based (where possible) sources. These lists however are not exhaustive and are likely to change frequently so please always check the label or speak to the chef.

Version 2 Produced March 2016 Review date March 2018