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Senate passes bill to add sesame as food allergen

TAGS: Labeling
Food Allergens 2020
Legislation passed recently by the Senate would place sesame in the same camp as the likes of milk, eggs and fish—as a major food allergen.

The Senate on Dec. 9 passed a bill that would codify sesame as a major food allergen for purposes of food-labeling requirements and direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to submit a report to Congress on challenges related to prevention of food allergies, reduction of risk and cures.

A similar bill was passed Nov. 17 in the House of Representatives, so the bills must be reconciled in order to reach the president’s desk. If passed into law, the legislation would make sesame the ninth major allergen—joining milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.

"With approximately 32 million Americans living with food allergies, it’s important for us to take targeted steps to address the growing challenges posed by food allergies and to protect those who are vulnerable," Sen. Tim Scott said in a Dec. 9 press release. “Nationwide, caring for children with food allergies costs an average of $25 billion annually, and can pose extreme hardships on low– and middle–income families.”

Scott, Republican from South Carolina, introduced the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act, along with Sen. Chris Murphy, Democrat from Connecticut.

The FASTER Act (S. 3451) would declare sesame the ninth major food allergen to be recognized by FDA and boost federal funding for food allergy research, noted FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), a non-governmental organization engaged in food allergy advocacy and private funder of food allergy research.

“More than 1.5 million Americans are allergic to sesame, and they and their family members live in constant fear and anxiety that sesame may be hiding in the food products they buy,” said Lisa Gable, CEO of FARE, in a Dec. 9 news release. “With today’s Senate passage, ushered forward by the incredible leadership of Senator Tim Scott and Senator Chris Murphy, a critical new law that will improve the lives of those with food allergies is one step closer to becoming a reality.”

The FASTER Act would codify sesame as a major food allergen under the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (FDCA), effective for products introduced into interstate commerce on or after Jan. 1, 2023, according to the news release from Scott’s office.

The bill also would direct HHS, within two years of enactment, to submit a report to Congress about opportunities and challenges related to food allergy prevention, risk reduction, cures, data collection and diagnostic and therapeutic development. HHS’ report would also describe a potential framework for changing the federal list of major food allergens in the future, the news release added.

“While mandatory labeling is required for major food allergens recognized by the FDA like milk, eggs and peanuts, FDA labeling requirements do not include the ingredient sesame, leaving more than 1.6 million Americans with a sesame allergy in the dark about what foods and products to avoid,” Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) said in a Nov. 17 news release, commenting on passage of the legislation in the House of Representatives. “The FASTER Act is the solution—legislation that would not only update labeling laws to include sesame, but also lay the groundwork to help understand, treat and one day prevent food allergies.”

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