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Thursday, June 17, 2010

U.S. Department of Transportation considers peanut restrictions on flights

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, using docket number DOT-OST-2010-0140.


  1. This is a very important issue that more Americans should be discussing--the proposed new rules. The University of Michigan's Dr. Wayne Baker is writing an entire week-long series on the challenges of balancing the needs of this growing number of Americans with allergies.
    His second story in the series links to a column posted by JACI. We would welcome your alerting your readers, because we'd like to encourage discussion. Dr. Baker's website, "OurValues," is a UofM co-sponsored effort to spark civil dialogue on important emerging issues.

  2. Update: According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (, the Department of Transportation is "backing off" after determining that a ban "would have violated a 2000 appropriations act that funds the DOT." The DOT is continuing to gather feedback from the public on this issue, at