The Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act, bipartisan legislation focused on improving the safety of those in the food allergy community was unanimously passed March 4, 2021 by the United States Senate. The bipartisan sesame labeling bill, was introduced by Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT). The passage comes a week after Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA-6) and Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10) introduced the same bill in the House of Representatives.
The legislation would require that sesame be labeled as an allergen on packaged foods, making sesame the ninth food allergen for which FDA requires plain-language labeling, joining milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy beans.
The legislation is designed to collect national information on Americans’ exposure to food allergens and prevalence of food allergies to specific allergens, update allergen labeling laws to include sesame, expand current guidance on patient experience data to include food allergies, and study the economic costs of food allergies. Nearly 1.6 million Americans are allergic to sesame, creating a struggle for them and their family members to determine if food products contain this harmful product.
Additionally, the legislation aims to expand the research necessary to find new treatments; currently, the U.S. federal government spends approximately 19 cents per person on food allergy research. The bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue a report on scientific opportunities in food allergy research.
“The legislation establishes a risk-based scientific process and framework for establishing additional allergens covered by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act,” says Steve Danon, senior vice president and chief of public affairs for Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), an organization involved in food allergy advocacy and research. “If you are allergic to sesame, you have no idea if a food is safe for you to eat. While most people know that sesame is found in bread and pizza, many aren’t aware that sesame is also found in dozens of products like candy, ice cream, BBQ sauce, and natural flavors or spices.”
There has been a lot of discussion about labeling sesame over the past few years and one of the reasons it has taken a while is that it’s the first allergen to be added to FALCPA since the law was enacted in 2006. There is some question among policymakers and regulators over the best way to add future allergens—either by legislation or regulation.
“The FASTER Act is a legislative solution that addresses this problem,” Danon says. “This bill will save lives, eliminate fear and anxiety, and make it easier for Americans to buy and eat safe food for themselves and their children.”