The FASTER Act: What Is It, And How Would It Help Food Allergy Families?
Learn how the FASTER Act would improve the safety and quality of life for people with food allergies, how it would accelerate the research and development of food allergy treatments, and how you can encourage Congress to pass this important bill.
The FASTER Act (Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research Act), a bill introduced in Congress in 2019, aims to vastly improve the safety and quality of life for the 32 million Americans who live with food allergies.
The FASTER Act was introduced by Representative Doris Matsui of California, has bipartisan support, and has close backing from a panel of medical experts.
As FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) explains, the proposals in the FASTER Act are rooted in recommendations from a National Academy of Medicine consensus panel, held in 2016.
"This landmark [panel]," explains FARE, "recognized food allergy as a critical public safety issue and provided recommendations to guide federal policymakers in Congress and the Executive Branch."
If the FASTER Act is passed and becomes law, it will recognize sesame among the top food allergens in the United States, improve food allergen labeling, and advance food allergy research, including the development of new food allergy treatments. Today, we'll break down what food allergy families need to know about the FASTER Act, including how families like yours can encourage members of Congress to pass the bill.
"Some... food allergies can be serious and potentially be life-threatening diseases, and it’s become abundantly clear to me that we need more research and evidence-based solutions to help understand...food allergies. I am pleased to introduce this commonsense bill [the FASTER Act] that draws attention to food allergens as a public health issue. I hope this legislation will provide progress treating allergens and improving the lives of those suffering from them.” - Doris Matsui, US Representative and introducer of the FASTER Act
Hear from fellow members of the food allergy community as they share how the FASTER Act would improve their safety and quality of life:
What will the FASTER Act accomplish, if it becomes law?
Some of the main benefits the FASTER Act would create if passed include:
Adding Sesame to the Top Allergens Affecting Americans
Sesame allergies are estimated to affect over 1.5 million people in the United States. Like all food allergies, sesame allergies can cause allergic reactions ranging from mild to severe, and can sometimes cause life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Sesame allergies are estimated to affect over 1.5 million people in the United States.
However, since sesame isn't recognized as one of the top 8 allergens affecting Americans, it currently isn't required to be listed clearly on ingredient labels. Sometimes, when a food contains sesame, the sesame ingredient is listed as a "natural flavor." This makes it very difficult for sesame allergy families to identify the foods that contain sesame, and that could cause an allergic reaction.
The FASTER Act would add sesame to the list of the top allergens that affect Americans (sesame would become the ninth allergen on the list).
- As a result, it would require products containing sesame to be clearly labeled under federal law, just like products containing the current top 8 allergens are.
- Thus, the FASTER Act would make it easier for sesame allergy families to avoid foods with sesame, and keep their family member(s) safe. People with sesame allergy will be less anxious about unintentionally eating foods that contain hidden sesame, and that could threaten their safety.
Making it Easier to Add Future Top Allergens
The FASTER Act would also let the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) add a new top food allergen to the current list at any time, if it determines that the allergen causes a significant number of people to develop severe allergic reactions.
- If a food is added to the top allergen list, ingredient labels of products containing that food would need to clearly state that the food contains the allergen. They would be required to do so under federal law.
- Congress would not have to pass a bill to add the new allergens to the list, like they must currently pass the FASTER Act to add sesame.
More Data on Food Allergy Prevalence and Economic Impacts
Once the FASTER Act is passed, it will expand research on the prevalence of different types of food allergies in the United States.
The FASTER Act will also require an NIH study of the economic impact of food allergies in the United States, both on an individual level and a population level. This study must be completed within one year of the Act's passing, and the results must be made available to Congress and the public.
One previous study estimated that parents of food allergic children can face costs of up to $4,200 every year per child, but this study only involved 1643 families. The FASTER Act will enable research like this to take place on a larger scale and generate more accurate cost estimates of living with food allergies. It will raise more awareness of the financial burden faced by food allergy families. In doing so, it will encourage action to help food allergy families financially, research treatments that could lessen this economic impact.
Parents of food allergic children can face costs of up to $4,200 every year per child.
Improved Research for Food Allergy Treatments
There is no cure for food allergies, and treatment options are very limited. Once someone develops a food allergy, they are simply directed to avoid the allergen, and to inject epinephrine and seek emergency care if they experience a severe allergic reaction.
Even though food allergies have such far-reaching impacts on health and quality of life, treatment options are scarce and treatment research is underfunded. According to FARE, the federal government currently spends only 19 cents per person on food allergy research.
The FDA has recently approved one food allergy treatment, known as Palforzia, but that's currently the only FDA-approved food allergy treatment, and it only helps young people with peanut allergies.
The FASTER Act would require the FDA to regularly review promising food allergy treatments, as well as research that would help scientists develop treatments. So, it would accelerate the development of food allergy treatments, and potentially improve treatment funding opportunities. This may ultimately help scientists discover a cure for food allergies.
"Food allergy is a growing public health crisis for which there is no cure, and the FASTER Act will provide crucial support for patients whose only current course of treatment is avoidance and a trip to the emergency room.” ---Lisa Gable, CEO of FARE.
“Food allergy is a growing public health crisis for which there is no cure” - Lisa Gable, CEO of FARE
How can you encourage Congress to pass the FASTER Act?
The FASTER Act has been introduced to the House of Representatives, as the bill H.R 2117. It has also been introduced to the Senate, as the bill S. 3451. According to FARE, it's "the first meaningful food allergy legislation at the federal level in more than a decade."
You can encourage members of Congress to pass the FASTER Act, and improve the lives of the millions of Americans living with food allergies, in a few different ways.
Through FARE, you can contact your senators and representatives, and encourage them to co-sponsor the FASTER Act. FARE's widget makes it easy to find the Congress members who represent you, and lets you personalize and send an email to them in a few simple steps. You can use the provided template, or share your personal food allergy story, and let your senators and representatives know how FASTER would improve the safety and quality of life for members of the food allergy community.
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About Mike Reynoldson: Mike Reynoldson is the CFO/COO for Ready, Set, Food!