Recently, President Biden signed the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act. The law adds sesame to the list of major allergens, requiring its disclosure on food labels as an allergen. Food manufacturers have until January 1, 2023 to add sesame allergen statements to their labels.
Current food labeling regulation allows sesame to be declared as a “natural flavor” or “natural spice.” This creates uncertainty for consumers allergic to sesame when they review product labels at their local grocery stores.
The FASTER Act requires that sesame, in any form, be labeled as an allergen on packaged foods. When signed, sesame became the ninth food allergen for which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires allergen labeling, joining peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, dairy, eggs, and wheat. This is the first time since 2006 that a new allergen has been added to the Food Allergen and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA).
The FASTER Act also requires 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 within eighteen months of enactment. Specifically, the report must include descriptions of federal activities involved with the surveillance and collection of data on the prevalence of food allergies and severity of allergic reactions for specific food or food ingredients. This requirement involves reporting on the development of effective food allergy diagnostics, the prevention of the onset of food allergies, the reduction of risks related to living with food allergies, and the development of new therapeutics. The report also must include a specific recommendation “for the development and implementation of a regulatory process and framework that would allow for the timely, transparent, and evidence-based modification of the definition of ‘major food allergen’ included in section 201 (qq) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.” This recommendation is meant to facilitate establishing scientific criteria for defining additional food or food ingredients as “major food allergens” should health authorities or Congress deem that that is required. The Act provides opportunities for stakeholder engagement and comment, as appropriate, when any such modification was being considered.