Happy December! Welcome to your 2021 advocacy update from Kids with Food Allergies (KFA), a division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). This year was a truly important year for the food allergy community. Here are some of the highlights.
The School-Based Asthma and Allergy Management Program Act
KFA kicked off the year with the passing of an important bill in January. Former President Trump signed the School-Based Asthma and Allergy Management Program Act on Jan. 5. This law encourages states to improve allergy and asthma care in schools. States that adopt certain programs and policies can get federal grants. The policy recommendations line up with AAFA's State Honor Roll.
States can earn funds for putting the following in place:
- Methods to identify all students who have allergies or asthma
- Create individual student action plans
- Require school nurses or on-site trained staff during operating hours to administer medicines for both asthma and allergies
- Asthma and allergy training education for school staff
- Efforts to reduce indoor asthma and allergy triggers
- Coordinate management of care with families and health care providers
These policies and programs are important to protecting students with food allergies and asthma.
The Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act of 2021
The food allergy community saw another win with the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act of 2021 (FASTER Act).
After the bill passed in the Senate, AAFA sent a letter to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on March 12, 2021, asking that the bill be brought up again in the House. We then launched a grassroots campaign. More than 3,000 AAFA and KFA community members contacted their congresspeople in four short weeks. Kudos to you all!
The House passed the FASTER Act on April 14, 2021. President Biden signed it into law on April 23, 2021. Manufacturers now have until Jan. 1, 2023, to label sesame as a major allergen. The Department of Health and Human Services must give a report to Congress on food allergy research before Oct. 2022.
Elijah’s Law Passes in Illinois
On Aug. 20, 2021, Governor Pritzker signed Elijah’s Law in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Public Health must now create policies to prevent anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) in school districts and day care centers.
The bill also requires the department to create, give out, and post information on its website about the anaphylaxis policies. Schools and day care centers must tell parents and guardians of the policies at least once a year. And schools and day care centers must send the policies to each board of every school district, charter school, and day care center in the state.
Elijah’s Law is named after 3-year-old Elijah Silvera. He died from anaphylaxis, as severe allergic reaction, after eating a grilled cheese sandwich at day care. The facility failed to follow emergency anaphylaxis plans.
This is the second version of Elijah’s Law to pass in the United States. The first version of Elijah’s law passed and was signed into law in Elijah’s home state of New York in 2019.
Thomas Silvera, Elijah’s dad, co-founded the Elijah-Alavi Foundation (EAF). Its mission is to amplify Elijah’s Echo. The goal of Elijah’s Echo is to “raise awareness on the severity of food allergies and anaphylaxis as well as the importance of education and training.”
KFA is currently working with EAF to ensure children in all 50 states are protected. Stay tuned for exciting updates on this early next year!
The Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2021
The Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2021 (FLMA, H.R. 4917/S. 2954) was re-introduced in the House and Senate again in August. If passed, the bill would make much-needed changes to food labeling in the United States. The FLMA aims to make food labels clearer and more accessible for all Americans, including people managing food allergies.
The bill would require updates to how nutrition and food allergy information is listed. The FLMA includes four major changes:
- “Gluten-containing grains” – It would require that “gluten-containing grains” are labeled in the same way as other major food allergens.
- Right now, “gluten-containing grains” barley and rye do not have to be noted on food labels. This bill would change that, and “gluten-containing grains” would be the 10th major allergen.
- Wheat will continue to be labeled as a major allergen.
- Easier updates to the list of major allergens – The bill would allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require labeling of more allergens based on the how common and severe reactions are to that food ingredient.
- This will allow FDA to more easily add to the list of major allergens and would not require Congress to pass a law.
- Online database of packaged foods involved in interstate commerce
- The FDA will require manufacturers and importers to submit allergen information along with nutrition facts labels, ingredient lists, images of their product, and health claims.
- The FDA will maintain the database and it will be available to the public.
- Allergen information available when buying foods online – The bill would require all labeling that is available in stores to be available when buying foods online.
- When shopping for groceries online, the same on-package information including allergen disclosures will be required at the online point of purchase
AAFA is currently working with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). We are meeting with members of Congress to get support for the bill. You can help as well by asking your lawmakers to support the Food Labeling Modernization Act of 2021.
KFA Community in Action
None of these achievements would be possible without your ongoing support and advocacy. Your voices are the most impactful and we thank you!
On May 6, AAFA held an Advocacy Action Day as part of National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. More than 300 AAFA and KFA community members contacted their lawmakers to share the impact food allergies and asthma have on their lives. Advocates highlighted the following needs of people with asthma and allergies to live healthy and full lives:
- Affordable, accessible, quality health care
- Clean air
- Healthy homes
- Safe food
- Financial stability
We are grateful for the more than 6,300 AAFA and KFA community members who have taken advocacy actions in 2021. If you’d like to see our asthma advocacy recap, please visit our asthma community. We look forward to more to come in 2022!
You can help promote real and lasting change for people with food allergies by supporting our advocacy efforts. Your gift, no matter how much, allows us to continue to raise awareness of food allergies so appropriate protections are put into place. Please consider a small donation to help us continue these efforts in 2022.