MCLEAN, Va. — President Joseph R. Biden last week signed into law a new food allergy bill requiring that sesame — to which nearly 1.6 million Americans are allergic, according to FARE, a non-governmental organization engaged in food allergy advocacy and a private funder of food allergy research — be labeled on all packaged foods beginning January 1, 2023, and that food allergy research be given greater priority by the federal government.
"The President's signing today of the FASTER Act is a major victory for the entire food allergy community across the nation," said 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 Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA-06) and Rep. 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."
Passage of the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act of 2021 has been the highest legislative priority for FARE, the organization said.
Because of its broader focus on food allergy research, the new law will benefit the 85 million Americans who are affected by food allergies and intolerances, including 32 million who have a potentially life-threatening condition, FARE said.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the FASTER Act on April 14, 2021. The Senate passed it on March 3, 2021. Last month, more than 500 food allergy advocates participated in FARE's Courage at Congress virtual fly-in where they met with more than 200 members of the House, the Senate and their staffs to push for passage of the bill.
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 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 store, FARE said. This marks the first time since 2004 that a new allergen has been added to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA).
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 is a wonderful day for food allergy families like mine," said Talia Day, a mother of two children who are allergic to sesame and an advocate for passage of the FASTER Act. "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."