Washington, D.C.—On April 14, the U.S. Congress passed the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act of 2021; on April 23, President Biden signed it into law. One major impact: Along with the top eight major allergens (milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybean), sesame will have to be listed on packaging and labeling, as of January 1, 2023.
According to the National Law Review, this will be a big change for many. “There is a large swath of foods manufactured with sesame and in many of those foods, the presence of sesame is undeclared, making those with sesame allergies susceptible to having allergic reactions,” writes shareholder Justin J. Prochnow on the database’s website. “Sesame seeds are often identified generally as ‘spices,’ or even ‘natural flavors,’ instead of as ‘sesame.’ Presently, foods cooked in sesame oil often do not need to be labeled with the presence of ‘sesame.’” The FASTER Act will now require sesame to be labeled, however it was used. See Prochnow’s article for his full take on compliance.
The New York Times points to a 2019 study published in JAMA Network Open, which found that around 1.1 million children and adults suffer from a sesame allergy. That’s less than one quarter of one percent of children and adults, but NYT points to two other studies showing that most children don’t outgrow the allergy, and that the allergy can be developed as an adult.
That’s not all that this law does, however. Passage of this act has been a high legislative priority for Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), because the law requires the federal government to analyze the most promising research opportunities to help scientists develop more effective treatments and, ultimately, a cure for allergies. FARE points out that 32 million people suffer from food allergies, but the federal government spends just 19 cents per person on research—in spite of the fact that there is only one FDA-approved treatment, and it only helps those with a peanut allergy.
“Today is a wonderful day for food allergy families like mine,” said Talia Day, a mother of two children who are allergic to sesame and a fierce advocate for passage of the FASTER Act, in a press release from FARE. “With President Biden signing the FASTER Act into law today, no longer will I have to live in fear that my children could accidentally eat something that would kill them simply because it was not included on a food label. I thank President Biden for signing this much-needed bill into law.”
“The President’s signing today of the FASTER Act is a major victory for the entire food allergy community across the nation,” added Lisa Gable, CEO of FARE. “I cannot thank President Biden enough, along with the thousands of food allergy champions who made today a reality, most notably Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), Representative Doris Matsui (D-CA-06), and Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10) who garnered overwhelming support for this bill in Congress. It was because of our champions and advocates that the FASTER Act was introduced, passed and signed into law during President Biden’s first 100 days in office.”