Over the last two decades, undeclared allergens have accounted for nearly 45% of all food product recalls. And the numbers are really astonishing. Of the nearly 10,000 food product recalls since the year 2000, over 4,000 were caused by companies failing to disclose the presence of allergens present in their products. Congress has long been concerned about protecting consumers with allergies and have taken recent steps to add further protections and create additional duties for the industry.
Congress has recently passed, and President Biden has recently signed, the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research (“FASTER”) Act. Because Congress was equally concerned about consumers with sesame seed allergies as those susceptible to the current list of “Big 8” allergens. The FASTER Act will soon officially add sesame seed to milk, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, fish and shellfish, as the ninth allergen that must be identified in “Contains Statement” on food product labeling.
While the new law goes into effect on January 1, 2022, many companies are already working to revise their systems to comply with the new requirements now. We similarly recommend taking action in the short-term to begin developing a compliance strategy. Depending upon the ingredients food companies use, and the finished products they supply, they could be significantly impacted. Those companies that are taking action should also begin working with their supply chain partners to ensure that their suppliers are not only aware of, but will also be following, the new requirements.
If even a single supplier drags their feet and does not work toward compliance until on or about the deadline, a processor might inadvertently ship ingredients carrying the allergen. If that were to occur and the problem were discovered, then recalls could ensue.
We do predict will see at least a slight spike in recalls for the undeclared presence of sesame seed following January 1, 2022, whether caused by an inadvertent deviation or from the regulators actively inspecting facilities with an eye towards ensuring that they are appropriately declaring those ingredients.
If the “Big 8” was enough to manage, the “Big 9” will be even more. Work hard now to begin developing and refining your programs and requirements to get ahead of this change. If you do, you’ll be well prepared when the regulators loudly proclaim “Open Sesame” to address the new allergen coming out.