On April 14, 2021, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill that will further ensure the safety of millions of Americans who live with a food allergy. The Food Allergen, Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act (FASTER Act) will require all food companies to declare the presence of sesame on food labels beginning on January 1, 2023.
According to FARE, Food Allergy Research and Education, there are over 30 million Americans who have food allergies, and over 5 million of those are children. Another way to make sense of this percentage is to imagine 2 children in every classroom across America having a food allergy. While these statistics are shocking, what is even more frightening for parents across the country is that food labeling can be deceiving, especially when companies use umbrella terms such as 'natural flavors' or 'natural spices' on their labels. It is not uncommon for natural flavors to include sesame, a food that over 1.5 million Americans are allergic to. With the passing of the new FASTER Act, people may feel another level of comfort knowing that sesame will be named the ninth major food allergen and will have to be explicitly declared on labels if it is present. Additionally, the Act states that the Secretary of Health and Human Services is responsible for researching allergies and conducting a regular review of allergy treatments.
While there has been a great deal of advocacy for food safety in the past, the FASTER Act provides Americans a greater sense of security when shopping for food products and looking at labels. Parents and children should not have to search between the lines on product labels when looking for safe foods to eat. This Act will continue the conversation on food allergies and bring attention to allergen-free food markets.
In today's society, individuals and families are steadily making changes to adopt a plant-based diet. The motivation to make these changes varies from person to person; some people are driven to change based on researched health benefits. Some want to contribute to environmental sustainability. Others are motivated to make food and lifestyle choices based on personal ethical considerations. Another reason someone may be interested in the plant-based food market is that many products within these markets offer great alternatives for those who suffer from food allergies.
Joe O'Neill, the VP of Sales and Business Development, mentions that "From the inception of our company over 30 years ago, it was our primary mission to provide clean label solutions from nature. Because allergens are such a major issue and a point of consideration in food product development, we make it our priority to support our customers with all-natural, allergen-free ingredients options. Our most recent allergen-free product additions include gluten-free breadcrumbs, labeled as pea flour or pea flakes, texturized pea and faba bean proteins, and rice starches." There are great options for people with food allergies to receive proper nutrition while also enjoying the foods they eat.
Michael Chang, Applications Manager at A&B Ingredients, adds, "With the ever-growing availability of functional and nutritionally-dense plant-based ingredients, food manufacturers can formulate plant-based products with allergen-free ingredients that could help consumers meeting daily nutritional needs. For example, you can create a plant-based product that helps consumers reach their daily requirement of fiber without using traditional fiber-rich products, such as whole-wheat foods. Instead, formulators can replace wheat with allergen-free ingredients, such as pea fiber."
In today's world, there are countless food ingredient innovations that support the health-conscious consumer and those with certain dietary restrictions. As the FASTER Act goes into effect in the coming years, it will likely create a positive effect on the plant-based food market and will help drive future sales. Food manufacturers' development of all-natural, allergen-free products will not only add value to the plant-based industry as a whole but will also support the millions of Americans who are living with food allergies.