You have likely heard of the Faster Act of 2021, but just in case you need a little more information about how it will affect those with sesame allergies, let me just say – it has been a long time coming.
First, a little history: When my son, Morgan, was diagnosed at 18 months old in 1997 with food allergies, there was no labeling law in affect. We went home from the doctor’s office with a diagnosis of peanut and egg allergies, and I decided to start making as much of his food from scratch, because I couldn’t trust that the label on any food accurately listed the correct ingredients. And any type of cross contact during the manufacturing process was an even further dream of getting that information!
The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) of 2004 went into effect on January 1, 2006. According to the FDA website, “Congress passed this Act to make it easier for food allergic consumers and their caregivers to identify and avoid foods that contain major food allergens. In fact, in a review of the foods of randomly selected manufacturers of baked goods, ice cream, and candy in Minnesota and Wisconsin in 1999, FDA found that 25 percent of sampled foods failed to list peanuts or eggs as ingredients on the food labels although the foods contained these allergens.” Good thing I was being cautious about labels on food products!
The ‘major food allergens’ that were required to be listed in plain English with FALCPA were: peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. These are known as the Top 8 in the USA. Other countries required different foods to be labeled on products manufactured in their country, and some of those countries included sesame.
Morgan got diagnosed with a sesame allergy after he endured a severe hive reaction from eating chicken nuggets at McDonald’s. We had a skin prick and blood allergy test performed by our allergist, and she wanted to see if he was allergic to sesame, since those little sesame seeds can appear in food and be almost undetectable. Sure enough, he was severely allergic, and we have been monitoring labels and calling customer service telephone numbers for food manufacturers for the last 20+ years. And let me tell you, it is VERY difficult to find a bread that doesn’t have cross contact issues with sesame!
At one time, I tried to make my own gluten-free bagels since our daughter was diagnosed with Celiac disease. I figured that these bagels would also work for Morgan, and we would know that they didn’t have any sesame in them, nor any possible cross contact in our safe kitchen. After hours of work trying to make a masterpiece, the bagels turned out less than ideal – better for use as a hockey puck or a door stop than for eating!
Since then, we searched for a safe bread in the grocery store, hoping to find one that didn’t also have sesame seeds on a different bread in their manufacturing line. We would then call the company and ask if there was ANY chance that the bread would cross with sesame in their plant. Sometimes we would find out that there was another product that contained sesame that was also run on the same lines. Sometimes we’d be lucky and find a safe bread! For years, Morgan used Roman Meal bread for sandwiches and for a hamburger bun because we couldn’t find any safe hamburger buns in any of our local grocery stores.
The FASTER Act – Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, and Research Act – not only requires that food manufacturers list sesame on a label beginning January 1, 2023, but also provides for more research on the prevalence and economic costs of food allergies. The food label must list sesame in ‘plain language’ and will become the ninth food allergen to be labeled, allowing those of us in the USA to rename the Top 8 to the Top 9!
As of this writing, the Act has been passed by both the Senate and the House in the US Congress and is heading to President Biden’s desk where it is expected to be signed into law.
Morgan and I cheered upon hearing that this legislation is soon to be law. And he so looks forward to being more confident of his food choices knowing that sesame will soon be labelled!