New York City, New York
On April 23, President Joe Biden signed into law the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act, a part of the fight for heightened food allergy awareness and research. The act has been revamped since last year, when it passed through the House of Representatives but was struck down in the Senate. Its benefits will affect all 85 million Americans who suffer from food allergies or intolerances—of which 32 million have a potentially life-threatening condition—due to newly-prioritized federal research and guidance on how to treat allergies from a young age.
The Act’s principle measure requires sesame to be labeled as an allergen in “plain language” on prepackaged labels starting January 1, 2023. It joins the other eight major food allergens—milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans—that are already recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA). Sesame allergies affect almost 1.6 million Americans and can be particularly difficult to avoid: sesame can be hidden under the label of “spices” or “natural flavors” as opposed to regular ingredients, as well as found in sesame-based ingredients, such as tahini. This is the first amendment to FALCPA’s list of allergens since 2004.
Food Allergy & Research (FARE), the world’s largest nonprofit dedicated to food allergy awareness, education and research, was a significant contributor to the law’s contents, and backed it heavily. Early in March, FARE hosted its annual Courage at Congress virtually to discuss the law’s importance with House, Senate and White House staff members.
“The President's signing today of the FASTER Act is a major victory for the entire food allergy community across the nation,” Lisa Gable, Executive Officer of FARE, said. “On behalf of the nearly 1.6 million Americans who are allergic to sesame, I thank Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC) for championing this critical piece of bipartisan legislation and now look forward to President Biden signing it into law.”
The FASTER Act requires that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report on food allergy research that investigates prevention, treatment and cures. The law further establishes a research-based scientific process for identifying new, federally-recognized “major allergens.”
“This is terrific progress for our food allergy community,” Kenneth Mendez, President and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, said. “Adding sesame to the major allergen list is a much-needed change and a significant part of this legislation. We’re grateful to our counterparts at FARE for spearheading efforts on the FASTER Act and supporting our recommendation to add sesame to this legislation.”