I’m sure most of you food allergic parents are aware of the news story circulating that federal regulators are considering restrictions or even an outright ban of peanut products on U.S. commercial flights. The U.S. Transportation Department announced this week they are taking a second look at arguments presented by food allergy advocates, sufferers, and the food industry. You may recall 12 years ago Congress shot down a proposed peanut food ban on U.S. flights.
While I am not a fan of the media’s play on words with these food-ban type stories (“It’s not nutty to allergics”) I do appreciate that this issue is getting some serious attention from the USDOT and mainstream media. It’s always amazing to me that food ban stories get non FA people so riled up. They think their rights are violated, and respond accordingly with verbal fights for the right to eat nutty trail mix and peanut snacks. People are so afraid of banning peanuts because they think other food bans will follow suit, and soon everything and anything will be banned.
I don’t advocate food bans in general environments (exception is my son’s classroom, which isn’t a lunchroom and shouldn’t be. It’s a learning environment, but that’s another story). Food bans provide a false sense of security that there are no allergens present. One cannot know if someone just wolfed down a PB and J and failed to wash their hands before stepping into the “banned room”. Also there are so many types of allergies (milk, soy, legumes, eggs, etc. ) that if you start eliminating one food, there will be arguments wanting to eliminate others. I understand this and have always made sure my FA son knows how to keep himself safe when eating at school, camp, play dates and even restaurants.
But I feel very differently about peanuts on planes. Peanuts and peanut products should be eliminated from the snack choices on commercial flights. Peanut particles in reciruculated cabin air can cause reactions, and a severe reaction 30,000 feet is a much different story than a severe reaction at a baseball park. Seriously, there is no comparison. Martin Kanan, CEO of King Nut Companies (a major supplier of peanut products on U.S. airlines) commented “What’s next? Is it banning peanuts in ballparks?”. It’s an ignorant comment that has no relevance to banning peanuts on airplanes. It’s clear he’s worried about his company’s profitability, and I completely understand that. But if he happened to have a child with a life-threatening allergy to peanuts and nuts, I’m sure he’d think differently.
All the major airlines have cut back on food service in general, and if they do offer an in-flight snack, why not just swap it for a less hazardous one, like fresh fruit, or carrot sticks, etc.? Is it really that big of a deal to make this simple change, that could potentially keep millions of food allergic people safe, and possibly bring more families back on planes who have been avoiding them?
It seems so simple, yet it is so controversial. What are your thoughts?