People who suffer from sesame allergies, reportedly more than 1.5 million people in the United States, may soon have some help identifying foods that contain it.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is preparing to release a notice Thursday that asks food manufacturers to clearly label the presence of sesame in their products.
Sesame is not currently one of the potential food allergens mandated by law to be listed on food labels.
"This is really a call to awareness issued by the FDA," said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News chief medical correspondent. "They don’t have the legal power to require food manufacturers to label packages if they contain sesame, but they can urge increased awareness and potentially have that happen down the road."
According to a study released last year by Northwestern University, more than 1.5 million people in the U.S. report a sesame allergy, which can be just as dangerous as a nut allergy.
A sesame allergy affects children and adults similarly, unlike milk and egg allergies, which people often outgrow past childhood, according to Northwestern researchers.
Symptoms of a sesame allergy include hives, itchiness around the lips and mouth, redness and gastrointestinal symptoms. In severe cases, a sesame allergy can lead to anaphylactic shock, which can be life-threatening, according to Ashton.
"My medical advice would be to get formally tested if you suspect a food allergy," she said.
Making a sesame allergy even more difficult is that sesame can often be a hidden ingredient, including in foods ranging from hummus and tahini to baked goods, candy and spices.
"Read those [food] labels and if in doubt, avoid it," said Ashton. "This is really important."