As part of his first 100 days of office, President Joseph R. Biden signed into law on April 23 the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act, which requires that sesame be labeled on all packaged goods and that greater priority be given to food allergy research by the federal government.
With 1.6 million Americans suffering severe sesame allergies, a simple task like grocery shopping can be challenging, since sesame is a popular, often hidden, ingredient in many food items used for flavoring.
"The president's signing ... of the FASTER Act is a major victory for the entire food allergy community across the nation," said Lisa Gable, CEO of McLean, Va.-based FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education). "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-S.C.; Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif.; and Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., 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 FASTER Act of 2021 has been the highest legislative priority for FARE, the leading nongovernmental organization engaged in food allergy advocacy and the largest private funder of food allergy research.
Biden signed FASTER into law a week after the House of Representatives passed the act. The Senate passed it on March 3. Last month, more than 500 food allergy advocates participated in FARE's Courage at Congress virtual fly-in, during which they met with more than 200 members of the House, the Senate and their staffs to push for passage of the bill.
As a result of their efforts, sesame will become the ninth food allergen for which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 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 the supermarket. This marks the first time since 2004 that a new allergen has been added to the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection 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 a fierce 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."
The FASTER Act would also require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue a report on scientific opportunities in food allergy research that examines prevention, treatment and new cures to benefit the 85 million Americans who are affected by food allergies and intolerances, including 32 million who have a potentially life-threatening condition. 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.
FARE's mission is to improve the quality of life and the health of individuals with food allergies. It aims to transform the future of food allergy through innovative initiatives that will lead to increased awareness, new and improved treatments and prevention strategies, effective policies and legislation, and novel approaches to managing the condition.