Tahini deadly? A Jerusalem tourist's terrifying encounter with the condiment

An Austrian tourist discovered he is allergic to tahini after encountering it in Israel for the first time.

Hummus dish with tahini (photo credit: PIXABAY)
Hummus dish with tahini
(photo credit: PIXABAY)

A tourist had a near-death experience with tahini in Jerusalem shortly after he consumed the food, only discovering on Sunday that he was allergic to one of Israel's most popular condiments.

Walter Spielmann, 40, hailing from Austria, had reportedly suffered a heart attack as a result and was shortly taken to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center by MDA paramedics, who used a defibrillator to save his life after three electric shocks at the scene of the consumption. 

Cardiologists at Shaare Zedek stated that they hope Spielmann's incident will help future tourists be more aware of Israel's culinary traditions and their ingredients.

The Austrian native, who is an owner of a sports technology firm, visited Israel to oversee flooring installation in Jerusalem's Arena Sports Complex for the upcoming Maccabiah Games this summer. He said that he had never encountered tahini, and therefore did not know what was in it. He did know, however, that he was allergic to sesame, the main ingredient in the greyish dip.

Prof. Naama Constantini, head of Shaare Zedek’s Heidi Rothberg Sports Medicine Center, first determined upon arriving at the scene that the cause of the incident was Spielmann's allergies.

 Walter Spielmann and Dr. Elad Asher at Share Zedek holding a container of techina that Walter now knows never to consume again. (credit: SHAARE ZEDEK MEDICAL CENTER) Walter Spielmann and Dr. Elad Asher at Share Zedek holding a container of techina that Walter now knows never to consume again. (credit: SHAARE ZEDEK MEDICAL CENTER)

"Just as Prof. Constantini found, we recognized that this was linked to Walter being unaware that tahini is composed largely of sesame," Cardiac Intensive Care Unit director Dr. Elad Asher said. 

"To his incredible luck, the quick reaction on the scene and the fact that a defibrillator was located nearby saved his life," he said. "Combined with the additional care that we were able to provide here at Shaare Zedek, were it not for that quick response and the defibrillator, we wouldn’t be here telling this story.” 

The incident occurred when Spielmann met with the Arena Sports Complex's CEO for lunch later rushing to and collapsing on the bathroom floor.

Upon being released from the hospital, Spielmann thanked the medical professionals who saved his life .