The FASTER Act, a new law on food allergens, is the first update to food allergy laws since 2004. In those days, eight major allergens had to be listed on food labels: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. These eight allergens were thought to cover 90% of all food allergies.
FASTER adds sesame to the list, and mandates new research on food allergies.
Sesame is now a major allergen
For the first time, sesame (including sesame seeds and sesame oil) has been classified as a major allergen, along with tree nuts, milk, and the rest of the eight original major allergens.
One of the big differences for sesame is that it is sometimes included in phrases like “spices” or “natural flavorings.” This may be one reason that it took some time for food scientists to realize that sesame allergies are actually a lot more common than previously thought. While only about one-quarter of one percent of Americans are allergic to sesame, that’s more than 1.5 million people.
Beginning January 1, 2023, sesame will have to be listed on labels like the other major allergens. Until then, you might consider becoming aware of ingredients like tahini, sesamol, and gomasio, all of which contain sesame.
Research on food allergens will increase
Within 18 months, the Department of Health and Human Services will be required to submit a report detailing current research on food allergies, including diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and coping with food allergies.
This report will include strategies for improving this research and coming up with better treatments.
One specific item the FASTER Act requires is a clear agreement on what constitutes a major food allergen so that it will be easier in the future to identify and add major allergens with confidence. Other countries often have longer lists of major allergens than the United States, and the authors of the bill hope that a clear scientific framework for identifying major allergens will help speed up the process if necessary in the future.
32 million Americans suffer from food allergies which could be life-threatening, and 85 million are affected by food allergies and intolerances. Supply chain issues during the pandemic made avoiding allergens more complicated for many people.