FASTER Act for Sesame Labeling Introduced in the House of Representatives
Critical legislation would add sesame as a major allergen; prioritize food allergy research
McLean, Va. (February 23, 2021) – Today, FARE, the world’s leading non-governmental organization engaged in food allergy advocacy and the largest private funder of food allergy research, announced the bipartisan introduction of the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act of 2021 (H.R. 1202) by the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill, which is FARE’s highest legislative priority, was introduced by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-California) and Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-North Carolina).
“Nearly 1.6 million Americans are allergic to sesame, and they and their loved ones live with constant anxiety that sesame may be in the food products they purchase,” said Lisa Gable, chief executive officer of FARE. “With today’s reintroduction, ushered forward by the strong leadership of Rep. Matsui and Rep. McHenry, a critical new labeling law to help those with life-threatening food allergies is one step closer to reality.” Added Gable, “Our goal was to reintroduce this legislation within the first 100 days of Congress, and to achieve this milestone within the first 50 days of the new legislative session is a true testament to the hard work and dedication of the thousands of food allergy advocates from across the country.”
The FASTER Act (H.R. 1202) 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 store.
The bill 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.
“For food allergy families across the nation, ordinary activities – like going to school, a birthday party, or camp – require a great deal of preparation and vigilance,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “Accurate food ingredient labels are crucial for these families to make decisions with potentially life-threatening consequences. However, current FDA labeling requirements do not include sesame, leaving more than 1.5 million Americans with a sesame allergy to fend for themselves. Thanks to an amazing outpouring of grassroots advocacy last Congress we had over 90 bipartisan cosponsors on the FASTER Act, and we are confident that support for labeling sesame will only grow in this new Congress. Food allergy families are truly resilient, and together we are working hard to make sure that this bill gets across the finish line.”
Congressman McHenry said, “Over 1.5 million people are allergic to sesame, yet there is no requirement to include the ingredient on product labels. The FASTER Act changes this, providing a much-needed update to allergen labeling laws to include sesame. Additionally, the bill requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to regularly review promising food allergy treatments and research, enabling us to better treat the millions of Americans that suffer from these life-threatening allergies. I am proud to support this legislation and am grateful for the work FARE has done raising awareness for sesame allergies.”
The FASTER Act was first introduced in April 2019 (H.R. 2117). After unanimously passing in the U.S. House of Representatives on November 17, 2020, a similar bill, (S. 3451) unanimously passed in the U.S. Senate on December 9. However, the legislative session expired before the House could consider the Senate’s revised version of the bill.
FARE will now begin meeting virtually with legislators to gain support for the bipartisan FASTER Act and will mobilize advocates to ask their representatives to sign on as cosponsors. The legislation will be front and center when FARE hosts its second annual advocacy event, Courage at Congress 2021: Advocate for a Cure, taking place virtually on March 8-10.
For more information on the importance of the FASTER Act, please visit foodallergy.org/faster.
FARE is the world’s leading non-governmental organization engaged in food allergy advocacy and the largest private funder of food allergy research. Our mission is 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. FARE is transforming 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 disease. To learn more about FARE, visit our Living Teal™ YouTube channel, or www.foodallergy.org.