The U.S. House has approved the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act, bringing sesame one step closer to becoming the ninth major allergen, as defined by federal law.
The legislation requires that sesame be labeled on packaged foods and prioritizes food allergy research. This action follows the Senate passage of the FASTER Act March 3. The bill now goes to President Biden for his consideration.
According to Lisa Gable, CEO of FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), the world’s leading non-governmental organization engaged in food allergy advocacy and the largest private funder of food allergy research, there are more than 1.5 million Americans who are allergic to sesame. FARE has been advocating for the passage of the FASTER Act alongside Rep. Doris Matsui, D-CA, Rep. Anna Eshoo, CA, and more than 90 other legislative supporters for more than two years.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest also has been working to get sesame labeled as a major allergen since they petitioned the Food and Drug Administration back in November 2014 for similar allergen disclosure.
“Our advocacy has been grounded in emerging science demonstrating that the prevalence and severity of sesame allergy warranted labeling protections on par with the original major allergens,” according to a statement released by CSPI.
“There is nothing more important to the food allergy community than ensuring that the FASTER Act is put into law,” said Lisa Gable, FARE CEO. “On behalf of the nearly 1.6 million Americans who are allergic to sesame, I thank Rep. Doris Matsui, D-CA, and Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-NC, for championing this critical piece of bipartisan legislation and now look forward to President Biden signing it into law.”
Other advocates for the Act included Sens. Tim Scott, R-SC, and Chris Murphy, D-CT, who co-sponsored the legislation in the Senate.
The FASTER Act has been the highest legislative priority for FARE. The FASTER Act would require that sesame be labeled as an allergen on packaged foods. Sesame would become the ninth food allergen for which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires plain-language labeling. Sesame is often used when a label reads “natural flavors” or “natural spices,” adding another layer of difficulty when consumers review product labels at their local grocery stores. If approved, this would be the first time since 2006 that a new allergen has been added to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA).
“Today is a testament to the hard work of thousands of food allergy advocates who sent emails, made calls, and visited members of Congress and staff to build support and make sesame the ninth allergen to be labeled under law,” said Rep. Matsui.
“The outpouring of support was incredible, and I’d like to thank Lisa Gable and everyone at FARE for their hard work mobilizing this dedicated, resilient community. The FASTER Act will truly make a difference for those living with potentially life-threatening food allergies and we are proud that it will now be signed into law.”
The FASTER Act would also require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue a report on scientific opportunities in food allergy research that examines prevention, treatment and new cures. In addition, the legislation establishes a risk-based scientific process and framework for establishing additional allergens covered by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
“Today, I was proud to see the FASTER Act pass the House, said Rep. McHenry. “This bill provides a much-needed update to allergen labeling laws to include sesame, which affects the over 1.5 million people allergic to sesame. Additionally, the bill will enable us to better treat the millions of Americans that suffer from life-threatening food allergies by requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to regularly review promising food allergy treatments and research.”
“Today is a life-changing and life-affirming day for our family and for the families of the nearly 1.6 million Americans allergic to sesame,” said Talia Day, a food allergy advocate with two children who are allergic to sesame.
“With today’s passage and hopefully President Biden’s signature, 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 Senators Scott and Murphy, Representatives Matsui and McHenry, FARE, and the thousands of food allergy advocates who helped make today possible and created a better future for the more than 32 million Americans living with potentially life-threatening food allergies.”
FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) has the mission to improve the quality of life and the health of individuals with food allergies, and to provide them hope through the promise of new treatments. To learn more about FARE, visit their Living Teal YouTube channel or www.foodallergy.org.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest is a nonprofit food and health organization that serves as a watchdog group for public interests. To learn more about CSPI, visit their website here.
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