The Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act was signed into law in April of 2021, prioritizing food allergy research and specifically declaring sesame as the 9th major food allergen recognized by the United States. The FASTER Act went into effect on January 1, 2023 and now requires allergen labeling laws be updated to include sesame seeds, sesame oil, sesame paste, and any other sesame products.
It is estimated that more than 1.6 million Americans are allergic to sesame, and some experts believe sesame allergy to have increased more in the past 20 years than other food allergy. Up until now it has been challenging to avoid sesame for those who are allergic given the lack of official labeling compared to the other prevalent food allergens – peanut, tree nut, milk, egg, soy, fish, shellfish, and wheat.
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) included those eight allergens because they were responsible for 90 percent of food allergies and thus were the most common causes of severe food reactions in the United States. The passing of the FASTER Act was the first successful effort to label a new food allergen since 2004.
Although the passing of the FASTER Act is welcome news for anyone with a sesame seed allergy and provides positive provisions for all food allergy sufferers, it has also ignited controversy.
An unanticipated, and negative outcome of the new law is the decision made by some baking companies to add sesame flour to products that previously did not contain the allergen. Many believe this is to avoid the costs associated with updating the production processes to prevent sesame cross-contact. As a result, previously safe packaged baked goods sold in stores and especially those sold to popular restaurants like Chick-fil-A (plain buns) and Olive Garden (bread sticks) are no longer safe for the sesame allergic community.
Understandably, this has left many people, and especially those allergic to sesame, with questions. Although the FASTER Act is a positive development for sesame allergic patients, and for anyone with a food allergy, patients and their families must remain vigilant in reading food labels and asking questions when eating outside your home. Here are a few things to remember:
- If you suspect you are reacting to sesame or any food, see a board certified allergist to discuss testing. If a food allergy is confirmed, follow your physicians’ management plan to keep you safe.
- Learn how to read food labels. Food Allergy Research and Education offers resources to help people learn how to read and interpret food labels.
- To find sesame-free foods and to stay informed on developments pertaining to the FASTER Act visit the FARE website, foodallergy.org.
Food allergy is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition affecting 32 million Americans, both children and adults. An accurate diagnosis by a board-certified allergist is the first step in living safely with a food allergy. Request an appointment online or by calling 770-953-3331.