A bill supported by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology unanimously passed the U.S. Senate December 9. A previous version of the bill, with small differences in wording, passed the House of Representatives unanimously November 17. The amended bill will go back to the House before being sent to the President.
A key component of the legislation is the required labeling of sesame in food products. Currently ingredients required to be listed on food labels include: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. The FASTER Act also directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to expand data collection of information related to food allergies and treatment.
The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that 10% of American adults have a food allergy.(1) More than 1.5 million Americans are allergic to sesame.(2)
At this time, the FDA has officially encouraged food manufacturers to voluntarily list sesame on labels. The FDA released the following statement from Susan Mayne, Ph.D. Director of the FDA’s Center for Food and Safety and Applied Nutrition, November 10: “Many Americans are allergic or sensitive to sesame, and they need the ability to quickly identify products that might contain sesame. While most products containing sesame declare it as an ingredient, there are times when sesame is not required to be declared by name on the label, such as when it is used as a ‘flavor’ or ‘spice.’ Other ingredients, like ‘tahini,’ are made by grinding sesame into a paste, but not all consumers are aware that tahini is made from sesame. In these instances, sesame may not be declared by name in the ingredient list on a product’s label. We are encouraging food manufacturers to voluntarily list sesame as an ingredient whenever a product has been made with sesame.”(3)
(1) Gupta, R. MD, MPH, Warren, C., Smith, B. PhD, et. al., Journal of American Medical Association Prevalence and Severity of Food Allergies Among US Adults, https://jamanetwork.com/
(2) McClain, M., Linde, J., Food Safety Magazine, The FASTER Act Passes the House and Picks up Momentum in Congress, https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/
(3) Food and Drug Administration Press Release, FDA Encourages Manufacturers to Clearly Declare All Uses of Sesame in Ingredient List on Food Labels, https://www.fda.gov/