Biden Just Signed a Major Food Allergy Law—Here’s What You Need to Know

The law adds a new “major food allergen.”


By Carolyn L. Todd, Self

Apr 26, 2021


President Joe Biden signed a new food allergy bill into law, which could have significant benefits for people who have severe food allergies. The Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act of 2021 newly identifies sesame as a “major food allergen” that requires clear labeling by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The law, which was introduced and passed by the Senate in March 2021 and passed by the House in April with bipartisan support, also improves federal research into food allergies and promotes better regulation of major food allergens.


Beginning on January 1, 2023, foods containing sesame (or a protein from sesame seeds) must contain clear labeling indicating so on the packaging. Sesame joins the eight existing major food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish (such as crab and shrimp), tree nuts (such as almonds and walnuts), peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. Together, these foods account for over 90% of all documented food allergies in the U.S. and are the most likely to cause a severe or fatal reaction, according to the FDA.


Almost 1.6 million Americans are allergic to sesame, according to a news release from the non-profit Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), which conducts food allergy advocacy (including pushing for the passage of the FASTER Act) and funds food allergy research. And since sesame can be present in foods labeled as simply containing “natural flavors” or “natural spices,” consumers checking an ingredients label for sesame or sesame-derived ingredients may miss it, FARE explains. Sesame ingredients, which may be in the form of whole seeds, oil, flour, paste, or salt, can also be listed under names like benne, gingelly, gomasio, halva, sesamol, sim sim, and tahini, according to FARE...


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