Madam Speaker, this is a special week for the more than 32 million Americans living with potentially life-threatening food allergies. Food Allergy Awareness Week, May 10-16, is dedicated to raising awareness about the challenges our food allergy families and friends face each and every day.
Of course, this year’s Food Allergy Awareness Week comes at a critical time. Our country is grappling with its greatest public health threat in over a century. The COVID-19 pandemic has made life even more challenging for most Americans, including our food allergy families. The New York Times1 recently reported on the lack of safe, healthy, and affordable food choices for allergic families. In addition, CNBC2 reported that the threat of contracting the coronavirus is keeping people away from visiting emergency rooms. In ordinary times, a food allergy reaction sends one person in the U.S. to the emergency room every three minutes. During the pandemic, food allergy families have needed to change the way they prepare for emergency care related to anaphylaxis.
Individuals and families with food allergies are resilient, and I have long been inspired by their courage to navigate life’s challenges. That’s why I have been working for the past year with FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), the world’s leading food allergy advocacy organization, to improve the quality of life for the more than 1.5 million Americans allergic to sesame.
Sesame is a common ingredient and is found in food like bread, cookies, and pizza dough. But many people don’t know that it is also found in other items such as candy corn, ice cream, and sushi.
Sesame’s widespread use is why those allergic to it desperately need to know what foods it is found in so they can avoid this ingredient. Unfortunately, that information does not exist. Currently, sesame is often labeled as a “natural flavor” or as a “spice” on the ingredients label leaving millions of Americans unable to make smart and healthy food decisions to protect themselves or their family members.
Thankfully, there is hope. Last year, I wrote and introduced the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act, H.R. 2117 that would require sesame be added to the list of allergens that must be labeled. It would join other common allergens like milk, eggs, and peanuts that are already labeled. The FASTER Act is the first meaningful food allergy legislation at the federal level in more than a decade and would change the lives for millions of Americans. The FASTER Act is a bipartisan solution that provides food allergy families with the life-saving information they need.
I am proud to fight for food allergy families and during this year’s Food Allergy Awareness Week, I urge my colleagues to join with me in support of the more than 32 million Americans affected by life-threatening food allergies.