Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies and trace amounts can cause threatening symptoms and even death in the most sensitized patients. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced that it will be gathering feedback regarding whether to restrict, or even ban, the serving of peanuts on commercial flights in the U.S. According to an article from the Associated Press (AP), the DOT will be consulting "allergy sufferers, medical experts, the food industry and the public." Supporters of regulations such as these feel that they will reduce fears and the potential of harm for Americans who suffer from a peanut allergy. Opponents, such as peanut farmers and food packagers, feel that such restrictions would be "overreaching" and "unfair."
According to the AP article, the DOT previously considered mandating peanut-free zones on airliners in 1998, but dropped these plans following a "hostile response" from Congress, which threatened to cut its budget. The article also notes that several airlines, including Continental, United, US Airways and JetBlue, have voluntarily stopped serving packaged peanuts.
The proposals regarding peanuts are part of a longer set of proposed protections for travelers. According to the DOT, three options are being considered: completely banning the serving of peanuts, prohibiting peanuts only requested in advance by a passenger, or requiring a "peanut-free zone" when asked for by a passenger. Quoted in the AP article, DOT spokesman Bill Mosely says, "We're just asking for comment on whether we should do any of these three things... We may not do any of them."
On the other hand, the article also quotes Martin Kanan, CEO of the King Nut Companies, which provides the peanuts served on most U.S. flights: "The peanut is such a great snack and such an American snack... What's next? Is it banning peanuts in ballparks?" Armond Morris, a peanut farmer in Georgia, is also quoted: "The peanut industry feels like we're being picked on... If we're going to go targeting food products, maybe we just need to ban all food" on planes.
Comments on the proposal can be submitted at www.regulations.gov, using docket number DOT-OST-2010-0140.