DC Legislation Update

This past year the Allergy Advocacy Association was active in promoting important legislation to help those impacted by life threatening allergies. Though 2020 was a challenging year, our association worked with others in the nonprofit community, including the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (aafa), Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), Allergy & Asthma Network (AAN), the Food Allergies and Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT) and End Allergies Together (EAT) to advocate for legislation and policies. Our efforts were a reminder that working together we are better able to serve those impacted by life threatening allergies.

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Sesame Label Warning Jan, 2021

Reported and edited by Jon Terry
January 14th, 2021

Greetings! Last March our association participated in a major advocacy event at the US capitol lobbying for passage of two bills. The result was enactment of H.R. 2468 and advancement of H.R. 2217 the "Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act of 2019." (In this issue of our e-newsletter, you'll find more information about H.R 2468 within our next article.)

"We came so close to labeling sesame and passing H.R. 2117/S. 3451 or the FASTER Act," says Jason Linde, Vice President, Federal Government Relations at Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). "Different versions of FASTER were passed by the House and Senate this year."

The Senate FASTER Act bill is not the same as what passed in the House earlier this fall. Because of that, it will have to go back to the House for a vote before being sent to the White House to be officially signed into law. The House revision will hopefully be finished by early February.

"We are grateful for the help of Rep. Doris Matsui, Sen. Tim Scott, and Sen. Chris Murphy and most of all, for our advocates who shared their stories and worked tirelessly to recruit co-sponsors for this bill," said Linde. "We look forward to building on this effort in the 117th Session of Congress."

Lisa Gable, chief executive officer FARE, referenced the “fear and anxiety” of living with sesame allergy for the up to 1.5 million Americans. The FASTER Act would require sesame to be labeled like other top allergens, and its success with lawmakers to date follows intense lobbying. She called progress towards enactment in 2021 as "…a true testament to the hard work of the thousands of food allergy advocates from across the country who wrote their lawmakers, attended our fly-in (to Capitol Hill in March), and participated in virtual meetings throughout the past year, as well as our team at FARE."

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (aafa) also pledged to keep asking members of Congress “to get the FASTER Act across the finish line.” AAFA and other advocacy groups have also been working with the FDA to get sesame recognized as a top allergen. “We want sesame to be clearly listed on all food ingredient labels. The Senate just helped us get even closer to finally making this a reality,” said Kenneth Mendez, AAFA’s CEO and President.

Along with the AAFA, our association joined a coalition of other food allergy NPs -including the Allergy & Asthma Network (AAN), the Food Allergies and Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT) and End Allergies Together (EAT) — advocating against relaxation of FDA regulations of food allergen additive labelling for packaged foods. As a result, the federal government's response to our concerns was almost entirely positive. As we move into 2021 many food manufacturers and producers did pledge to consult and cooperate with our coalition.

Despite the corona virus pandemic, an electoral crisis and economic hardship during 2020, activists and advocates have produced tangible results; families at risk for anaphylaxis from life-threatening allergies are being heard at the state, local and national level. By working together we have accomplished things collectively that we never could have achieved through individual action.

In 2021 I believe we can build upon our encouraging results from last year. While focusing attention upon the pandemic in America, the concerns of families who risk exposure to dangerous allergens (foods, medications, insect stings, inoculations) must not be neglected.

Using our program of raising awareness, alertness and action, the Allergy Advocacy Association remains committed to helping individuals and families risk for anaphylaxis in 2021.

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