Earlier this week the US House of Representatives introduced the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (FASTER) Act. If the headlines raised a sense of déjà vu for you, you’re not alone. This headline is one we’ve heard before (in November 2020, in fact). If you weren’t keeping tabs on the progress of this important bill, this new announcement may have confused you. Let’s step back a moment and take a look at what the FASTER Act entails and why this headline might sound familiar.
What Is The FASTER Act?
Advocated for by groups like Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), the FASTER Act would require an update to allergen labeling laws to include sesame. It would also require the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to analyze food allergy research and denote where resources should be directed in an effort to more effectively promote the prevention, treatment, and cure of food allergies.
Why Are These Changes Needed?
When the laws governing food allergy labeling were first passed, there were 8 allergens that accounted for the majority of allergic reactions treated in the United States. As such, labeling laws required clear, plain language labeling for those specific foods: milk, soy, wheat, egg, peanut, tree nut, shellfish, and fish. More recently, however, there has been a notable increase in the number of patients reporting sesame allergies. With more than 1.5 million sesame-allergic individuals in the US, there are now 9 common allergens responsible for the majority of reactions, and the FASTER Act would require labeling to reflect that progression.
The other important component of the FASTER Act is its focus on food allergy research. Today the federal government allocates about 19 cents per person on food allergy research. To date, there is just one treatment FDA-approved for food allergies and it focuses specifically on peanut allergies. Expanded focus efforts on food allergy research would mean increased opportunities for the development of testing and treatments for the food allergy community.
Why Does It Sound Familiar?
As noted above, the headlines indicate the FASTER Act was introduced in the House of Representatives this week. While that’s true, the language used by some media outlets doesn’t tell the full story. The bill has actually been reintroduced to the House this week.
Back in November 2020, the FASTER Act made its way through the House and Senate. In fact, the bill was unanimously passed in both chambers. However, at the time, there were actually two different versions of the FASTER Act with slight variations between what was approved in the House versus what was approved in the Senate. The 2020 Congressional session ran out of time before the House of Representatives could vote on the Senate version of the bill, and without approval of the same version in both chambers, FASTER did not become law. This week a bi-partisan effort in the House reintroduced the FASTER Act for consideration in 2021.
How Can I Help?
The original version of this bill had unanimous support in both the House and Senate. Now that it’s been re-introduced, you can reach out to your state representatives and ask them to support the FASTER Act of 2021 (H.R. 1202). When it moves on to the Senate, you can encourage your senators to do the same.
You can access a template letter on FARE’s advocacy page and even send digital correspondence by answering a few questions and approving the template message. You’ll find a similar tool on the Kids with Food Allergy advocacy page. Once you’ve sent off your missive, tweet about it. Write a Facebook post. Share it on LinkedIn. Encourage your friends and family to reach out to their state representatives, too! If you’re really ready to roll up your sleeves and get involved, consider signing up for FARE’s March 8-9 virtual advocacy event, Courage at Congress 2021: Advocate for a Cure.