WASHINGTON — Representative Doris Matsui of California and Representative Patrick McHenry of North Carolina on Feb. 23 introduced the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act of 2021 (HR 1202), which, among other things, would require that sesame be labeled as an allergen on packaged foods.

The FASTER Act was first introduced in April 2019. After unanimously passing in the House of Representatives on Nov. 17, 2020, a similar bill, (S. 3451), unanimously passed in the Senate on Dec. 9. However, the legislative session expired before the House could consider the Senate’s revised version of the bill.  

Under the FASTER Act, sesame would become the ninth food allergen for which the Food and Drug Administration requires plain-language labeling.

The bill also would 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 would establish 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,” Ms. Matsui said. “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.”

 Mr. 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 HHS 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.”

Lisa Gable, chief executive officer of Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), a non-governmental organization engaged in food allergy advocacy, said, “With today’s reintroduction, ushered forward by the strong leadership of Representative Matsui and Representative McHenry, a critical new labeling law to help those with life-threatening food allergies is one step closer to reality. 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.”