The Dark Side of the FASTER Act

The Dark Side of the FASTER Act

Ava Blakely, Writer

On January 1st, 2023, Congress passed a new bill that included sesame as a major allergen. This bill, called the FASTER Act – standing for the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act – was passed with the intent of making it easier for people with sesame allergies to eat foods, and giving them peace of mind.

The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004, otherwise known as FALCPA, is the reason why some ingredients at the bottom of the list are bolded with a warning that the product contains certain allergens like milk, eggs, or tree nuts. Anything on the federal list of major allergens must be announced in this manner. This can be incredibly helpful for people with these allergies, and make things much easier for them.

Despite being well-intentioned, the FASTER Act has led to companies making choices that put consumers with allergies to sesame at risk.

Sesame seeds – commonly found on hamburger buns, for example, and shown in the image above – are incredibly small, which makes them incredibly susceptible to cross-contamination. In other words, they’re excellent at getting into places they shouldn’t be, especially in a massive factory that produces hundreds of thousands of products every day.

In order to circumvent this, companies have been using sesame flour in products, usually breads, since it costs less money than cleaning equipment and making sure that products made in the same area or factory do not contain traces of sesame.

The roots of this issue dig deep. A personal anecdote, as someone who is allergic to sesame, as an example. The fast-food chain Wendy’s supplier has put sesame not only into the buns of the burgers, but the French Toast Sticks as well. Since the sticks are fried in the same fryer as nuggets and fries, that makes eating either of them risky – and a risk I don’t feel comfortable taking. As any of my family and friends will know, I really love both nuggets and fries from Wendy’s, and to be rendered incapable of eating them anymore is incredibly upsetting.

This is just one example from my own life of how the consequences of the choices of these companies have negatively impacted the lives of the people originally intended to be helped. The FASTER Act was passed with the idea of making food easier and safer for those with allergies to sesame, but the companies and producers have screwed the good intentions up so much that they have made it more difficult for the people the law was meant to help.

The FDA has stated that they do not support the companies changing their recipes in response to the Act, but even so, the changes made are legal as of right now. Perhaps with enough rallying, support, and making voices heard, an amendment or clause will be passed in the future to change the law and make the world of food safer, as intended, but for now we can only wait and be careful.

If you or anyone you know has a sesame allergy, please take the time to double-check products consumed, even if you’ve had them before. Allergies can result in incredibly severe reactions, and at the very least are unpleasant and expensive.