Make us your home page

Debating the role of peanuts on airline flights

The Department of Transportation this month rolled out a roster of new rules it was considering to impose on airlines. Highlights include more compensation for passengers bumped off flights, better disclosure of baggage fees and the right to cancel a reservation within 24 hours without a penalty.

So, what idea triggered the sharpest debate so far?

Peanuts. More specifically, whether the DOT should ban or restrict airlines from serving the snack to protect people with peanut allergies. The agency put the ideas on hold last week under pressure from members of Congress from peanut-growing states.

Advocates argue that a ban would protect the estimated 1.8 million Americans with peanut allergies from suffering dangerous reactions and relieve their fears of flying. Peanut farmers and processors counter that regulators are trying to fix a problem unsupported by scientific fact.

The DOT insists it just wants to explore ways to make air travel more available to people with severe allergies.

The agency gave three options: ban airline peanuts and peanut products on planes; require peanut-free flights when a passenger with an allergy requests it; or create peanut-free zones in the cabin for allergic travelers.

Interested parties also were invited to comment on how airlines should deal with passengers who bring peanuts and peanut products on board. The DOT got an earful on its public comment docket.

"For the millions of Americans with this life-threatening allergy, flying is considered hazardous," wrote Kelly Rudnicki of Wilmette, Ill., outside Chicago, the mother of a 7-year-old with a peanut allergy. "A food allergic reaction at 30,000 feet is vastly different than in a restaurant."

Opponents noted the allergy afflicts only 0.6 percent of the U.S. population.

"You are denying the rights of the vast majority of passengers," wrote Robert Hahn of Overland Park, Kan. "Denying a product that has near zero net carbohydrates is grossly unfair to diabetics … (whose population) dwarfs the number of flyers with peanut allergies."

Peanuts and tree nuts like cashews and almonds are the leading cause of fatal and near-fatal food allergy reactions.

Most deadly and almost deadly reactions come from people eating food made with peanuts, Dr. Anna Nowak-Wegrzyn at Mount Sinai School of Medicine's Jaffe Food Allergy Institute in New York told CNN. But breathing airborne peanut particles also can produce "a significant reaction," she said.

Only three studies have been published on allergic reactions to peanuts on planes, said Chris Weiss, vice president of advocacy and government relations for the Food Allergy Anaphylaxis Network.

All were based on reports by passengers. None reported fatal reactions on airplanes, he said. "There is evidence reactions occurred," Weiss said. "But no scientific study looked at the risk of a reaction to peanut dust or particles."

That's why the DOT backed off on considering peanut regulations last week.

A 2000 act that funds the DOT prohibits the agency from restricting airlines from serving the snack until Congress gets a study confirming passengers suffered severe allergic reactions from peanut dust.

His group would welcome the report, Weiss said. "It's an emotionally charged issue," he said. "I don't see it going away any time soon."

Debating the role of peanuts on airline flights 06/29/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 9:26am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Carrollwood fitness center employs scientific protocol to help clients


    In 2005, Al Roach and Virginia Phillips, husband and wife, opened 20 Minutes to Fitness in Lakewood Ranch, and last month they opened the doors to their new location in Carrollwood.

    Preston Fisher, a personal fitness coach at 20 Minutes To Fitness, stands with an iPad while general manager/owner Angela Begin conducts an equipment demonstration. The iPad is used to track each client's information and progress. I also included one shot of just the equipment. The center recently opened in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  2. Olive Tree branches out to Wesley Chapel


    WESLEY CHAPEL — When it came time to open a second location of The Olive Tree, owners John and Donna Woelfel, decided that Wesley Chapel was the perfect place.

    The Olive Tree expands its offerings of "ultra premium?€ extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) to a second location in Wesley Chapel. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  3. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  4. New York town approves Legoland proposal


    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  5. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate


    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]