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Allergy Specialists
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Seed allergy


Sesame allergy is fairly common in some countries, including Australia and Israel, and anecdotally it would appear to be on the increase in New Zealand. Occasionally reactions are severe. Even when these are mild or moderate, it must be assumed that a future reaction may be severe and medical advice should be sought in all cases. Where it is considered there a real risk of an extreme reaction, injectable adrenaline may be prescribed.

People who are allergic to sesame must seek to avoid it completely, as even a tiny amount may trigger a severe reaction.

The rise in sesame allergy is possibly linked to its increased use in cooking. It is often used for flavouring and decorative purposes in foods.

Heating does not destroy the allergenicity of sesame.

Sesame oil should be avoided as it is most likely to be unrefined, and therefore contain the allergenic proteins that trigger allergic reactions.

Bread and other products bought from bakeries should also be avoided as these may be contaminated by sesame seeds from other breads. The seeds may not be obvious — they may be in dough or on the bottom.

Dishes containing sesame include:sesame seed allergy

• tahini
• gomashio
• hummus
• halvah.

Some examples of where sesame may be present:

• biscuits
• bread
• bread rolls
• cereals/muesli
• crackers
• cocktail biscuits
• hamburger buns
• health food snacks
• muesli bars
• take away foods-especially many Middle Eastern & Asian dishes
• some Indian sweets
• vegeburgers,

Note: Always read labels as sesame may appear in foods not listed here.

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds also cause allergy and are found in a wide range of breads and baked products. Sunflower seeds do not have to be listed as an allergen. Often breads will simply list “seeds” in the ingredients list and this is very likely to include sunflower seeds. It is, therefore, a good idea to contact the manufacturer.

Poppy Seeds

Poppy seeds are used in baking and for decoration. Poppy seeds can be found in crackers, biscuits, muffins, cakes, breads and bread rolls. These seeds are so tiny they are likely to travel far and wide so be careful of contamination.


Linseed allergy is rare.

Linseed is often used in bread and breakfast cereals and sold as powder for addition to homemade bread and baking. Linseed is also called flaxseed; flaxseed oil is sold as a dietary supplement.
Acknowledgements: Dr Jan Sinclair — Paediatric Immunologist, and Jennifer Heyward — Paediatric Dietitian, of Starship Children's Health.