People's Suggestions

Please click on the section of the summary you think needs work and leave a comment in the box that appears.
This discussion is now closed.
show all (22)
There are no comments. Click the text to your left to make a new comment.
9/1/2010 15:01

a person can die w/in minutes from peanut products – can a life be saved inflight w/in this time frame?

    9/1/2010 15:14

    Thanks for reviewing the summary, chase. This is not the place to reargue your position. Now the goal is to ensure that the summary captures all the points that people made during the discussion. If you think something is unclear or wrong, please leave a comment on the section that you think needs work.

9/1/2010 15:14

In the personal rights section I believe you are underestimating the number of commentators who disagreed that banning peanuts was an unjustifiable infringement on other passengers rights. Some – like myself – may not have said it in so many words but by stating that we agreed with a ban we are discounting the opposing arguments.

In who participated it might also be helpful to indicate that many posts opposing a ban were made by a few individuals. I haven’t counted “howie”‘s posts but there sure were a lot of them.

In the personal rights section and again in the last paragraph of the possible regulatory response comments about problems for those suffering from coeliac disease are raised are by those who are both coeliac AND have blood sugar issues and in one case this related to a single flight. I myself am gluten intolerant. On most flights there are gluten free meals and crisps I can eat. It is possible to find alternative long life foods for travel, I carry some myself when flying. It should be clear that this was not an issue for coeliacs in general but simply for those who are both coeliac AND have blood sugar problems.

In the slippery slope you mention that “about half” (presumably of the 30 rather than of the total number of commentators, this could be clearer) think it should be the responsibility of allergy sufferers to protect themselves. You do not point out that allergy sufferers state that the methods suggested are not feasible. It is stated later but should be here also.

In the section on existence and severity you mention that several commentators provided links and citations. I suggest an addition to the text “Commentators challenging the evidence tend to oppose any regulation. Some deny that allergies exist or state that they are outgrown in childhood”

As it stands you give equal weight to those whose views are clearly ill-informed and those who views have some scientific backing.

    9/1/2010 15:49

    Thank you for your very helpful suggestions, buzzard. We will take everything you said into careful consideration when we are putting the final summary together. A few quick thoughts on your points:
    1. We will definitely double-check our numbers, but we can only count what people actually say in their comments.
    2. Our number estimates are based on commenters, not comments. So if one person said the same thing three times, it was only counted once.
    3. On your last point, you’ll be glad to know that we have invited the authors of many of the scientific studies cited to come discuss the scientific evidence on our Experts’ Discussion Board.

9/1/2010 21:25

No where in the (very well done) summary did i see the mention of the touch allergy concern that was mentioned by both sides of the debate. Seems like it should be included under enforceability (mentions of peanut residue on hands from prior consumption). This is seems like a very important, if not harped upon, consideration.

Overall, this summary seems to really cover the debate.

Thanks for letting us know the summary was available for comment.

    9/1/2010 22:26

    Thank you so much for your helpful input. We will note it for inclusion in the final summary that is submitted to the agency.

9/1/2010 22:24

The Draft Summary does not address a Possible Regulatory Response of maintaining the status quo.

9/2/2010 09:31

Overall a good summary of the discussion. I would only suggest that when you mention the slippery slope argument you also mention that several people made suggestions of regulating other allergens and products which tends to support the concern that this will lead to even more regulation.

    9/2/2010 09:48

    Thank you for your suggestion. We will note it for inclusion when we create the final summary.

9/13/2010 10:41

Excellent summary of the what happened in the discussion. I think an important editorial note should be inserted, that the people with dubious claims of allergy do argue their points passionately, and are convinced of their own veracity. Unfortunately hypochondriacs do exist, and some acknowledgement of that fact, and the certainty that at least some of the anecdotal evidence provided must be coming from hypochondriacs would have made this more complete and accurate. Also, I see that there are no ‘Expert’ comments yet. I do hope that the experts you contacted represent both pro and anti allergy researchers. There are many scientists, and many studies, and one can find ‘evidence’ for and against any issue. I am sure as many studies can be found to disprove the existence of peanut allergies, as to prove them and I hope that the selection is balanced in that respect. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important rule making process.

    9/13/2010 15:25

    Thanks for taking the time to review the draft summary, Howie. To answer your question about experts, we contacted all the authors (whom we could locate) of all the studies brought to our attention by commenters or people who responded to our request for other experts. You can see the complete list of studies here.

    We will be appending this list of studies and the questions posed to experts to the final summary that we submit to DOT.

9/13/2010 10:56

After reviewing the summary, it seems to miss several important points:
1. There are no hospital emergency rooms at 35,000 feet.
2. Epi-pens are not without risk and when deployed can cause strokes.
3. There is no such thing as an “acceptable” level of casualties/deaths. Especially if you are that one in a thousand with potentially fatal allergies. Why should I sacrifice my rights to live/breathe so someone else can have a snack?
4. Allergic reactions and death due to peanuts are preventable. That’s why the only rational response is to ban peanuts from aircraft.

    9/13/2010 14:56

    Zero seems like an acceptable level of risk to me. to reiterate – There has NEVER been ONE single death. No Risk Whatsoever. You are correct, death due to peanuts would not be an acceptable outcome. Thing is, it doesn’t happen. A few hives on the other hand, that seems pretty acceptable.

    9/13/2010 15:26

    This is not the place to reargue your position. Now the goal is to ensure that the summary captures all the points that people made during the discussion.

    9/13/2010 15:29

    Thank you for noting things you think we missed. We will note them for inclusion in the final summary.

9/13/2010 11:00

P.S. – Howie makes a valid point, scientists should have input in this discussion too. Real scientists, not peanut industry lobbyists and shills. Those of us with asthma now have to buy our albuterol from India because the only effective rescue inhalers (made with cfc’s that ALLEGEDLY deplete the ozone layer) have been banned in the USA.

    9/13/2010 15:00

    This makes my point better than anything I could ever say. You put your selfish needs ahead of the health and safety of the ENTIRE PLANET?!?! Really? The Ozone Layer is pretty important to the rest of us, I don’t think your need for an inhaler trumps that. Same argument with the peanuts. People who might be slightly impacted by a mild allergic reaction want to institute a ban that will impact the vast majority of the rest of us. Simply selfish.

    9/14/2010 12:13

    schachgeek, you will be glad to know that we invited experts in peanut allergies, whom we identified from a list of studies commenters cited (see that list here). You can see what, if anything, the experts are saying here. We will send this list of studies to the DOT along with the final summary of discussion on the rule.

Airline Passenger Rights "Peanut allergies"

Draft Summary of Discussion
By the Regulation Room team based on what people have said
Agency Documents
1 16

What’s Going on Here?

This is a summary of the discussion on the Peanut Allergy post between June 2 and August 31.   (On that date, the post was closed to further discussion.)  The summary was written by the Regulation Room team based on all the comments people made.  This version is a DRAFT. We need YOUR help to make sure that nothing is missing, wrong or unclear.

Important dates:

Sept. 1 – Sept. 16:  Comments can be made here on the draft
Sept. 17 :  Commenting on the draft summary closed
Sept. 17 – Sept.  22:  Regulation Room team reviews comments and revises draft
Sept. 23:  Final Summary of Discussion is posted on Regulation Room and submitted to DOT Department of Transportation as a formal comment in the official rulemaking record.  (Sept. 23 is the last day of the official commenting period.)

Things to keep in mind as you read through the draft summary and make comments:

  1. The goal here is to give DOT Department of Transportation the best possible picture of all the different views, concerns, and ideas that came out during the Peanut Allergy discussion.  This is NOT the place to reargue your position or criticize a different one.  Focus on whether anything is missing or unclear, not whether you agree or disagree.
  2. Rulemaking is not a vote.  DOT Department of Transportation is not allowed to decide what to do about peanuts based on majority rule.  (Why? See Effective Commenting).  Approximate numbers are provided in the summary to give DOT Department of Transportation a sense of the frequency of views, concerns, and ideas.

To help us make Regulation Room better, please take this SHORT survey on your experience.  (If you’ve already taken the survey, please don’t take it again.)

2 0 Who Participated in the Peanut Allergy Discussion?

The peanut allergy issue generated a lot of discussion.  There were 537 total comments:

  • 454 were made by 185 users
  • 83 were made by Regulation Room moderators

In their comments, many people identified themselves as either peanut allergy sufferers, the parent or other relative of a peanut allergy sufferer, or sufferer of some other type of allergy.

3 0 How this Summary is Structured

The first 6 sections are problems or concerns that people raised during the discussion.

The last 5 sections are possible regulatory responses that were raised and discussed.

4 0 Evidence of Existence and Severity of Peanut Allergies

Commenters generally agree that DOT’s decision about whether to restrict peanuts on airplanes should be based on good evidence about the extent, severity, and nature of peanut allergies, particularly the effect of airborne peanut particles during flight.  However, commenters disagree sharply about whether such evidence exists, and there were some heated exchanges about this.  Several provided links and citations to articles and scientific studies about peanut allergies.  The list of those links and citations can be found here. Commenters who discussed the evidence on peanut allergies are about evenly divided on whether it is adequate to justify restricting peanuts on planes (about a dozen commenters on each side).  Those who dispute the adequacy of the scientific evidence point to the fact that many of the studies rely on reported food allergies, rather than allergies clinically diagnosed through IgE testing. Commenters challenging the evidence tend to oppose any regulation. Those who consider the evidence adequate are likely to support a complete ban on peanut products on planes, rather than simply establishing peanut-free flights or peanut-free buffer zones.

Many commenters told stories about their own allergic reaction to peanuts or peanut products, or about a reaction of their children, grandchildren or other relative.  Because DOT Department of Transportation specifically asked for “scientific or anecdotal evidence” of serious in-flight allergy problems, stories of in-flight medical problems from airborne peanut particles are collected here. Most of those who described an allergic reaction of their own or experienced by their children support restricting any food item containing peanuts.  In general, those who oppose a restriction of peanut food items believe that personal reports of the incidence and severity of peanut allergies are inaccurate, exaggerated, or were not grave enough to warrant regulation.  In particular, they dispute that airborne particles (in contrast to actual ingestion) can trigger serious reactions.  The commenter who self-identified as a flight attendant said that he/she had not seen peanut allergy problems among passengers until recently, and that she doubts their legitimacy.  The commenter who self-identified as a pilot said that he/she is allergic to peanuts, but did not comment about experience with allergic passengers or possible accommodations.

The disagreement about whether good evidence exists, combined with the unpredictability of allergic reactions and concerns about effective avoidance strategies, is reflected in disagreement about acceptable levels of risk.  Although commenters agree that attaining zero risk is unrealistic, consensus does not exist on the acceptable level. Some commenters—especially people who report having children with peanut allergies—advocate reducing risk to a minimum by eliminating peanuts completely from airplanes.  Many of these commenters consider unacceptable risk to include reactions that are not life-threatening.  By contrast, some commenters say that the risk of death is extremely small; they do not include reactions that cause only discomfort in the outcomes they consider unacceptable and are convinced that proper steps could be taken to minimize risk to acceptable levels without regulation.  Many commenters’ perception of acceptable risk falls somewhere in between these two positions.

Because of the importance of scientific evidence on the extent, nature and severity of peanut allergies, the Regulation Room team invited experts to add their views to the discussion.  Go here to read about how we identified experts, and to see what, if anything, they have to say.  Commenting on the Peanut Expert post is limited to invited experts.

5 0 Personal Rights and Freedoms

About a dozen commenters think that banning peanuts would unjustifiably infringe on passengers’ rights and personal freedoms.  About the same number of commenters disagree.  Commenters who raise personal rights issues tend to question the validity and severity of peanut allergies.   They object to limiting their ability to consume peanuts and peanut products because of speculation and unfounded fears, and so they tend to oppose any regulation.  Commenters who disagree are convinced that peanuts pose a real and serious risk. They insist that the danger to those who are allergic outweighs the benefits others may derive from eating peanuts and peanut products during flight, and so they tend to support peanut restrictions of some sort (see below).  Some commenters respond that the benefits of peanut consumption are greater than just satisfying personal preferences: peanuts are an efficient source of protein (especially for children), are a travel food relied on by people with blood sugar problems, and is one of the few in-flight snack option for those suffering from celiac disease or otherwise allergic to gluten products.

6 0 Slippery Slope

Approximately thirty commenters are concerned that banning peanuts will be a slippery slope leading to greater regulation both of food products specifically and air travel in general.  Commenters who raise slippery slope concerns are generally more likely also to voice concern about the economic costs of implementing peanut restrictions, the difficulty of enforcement, too much government regulation, and infringement on personal rights and freedoms (see below).  About half add that it should be the responsibility of the allergy sufferer to take necessary precautions.  Roughly fifteen commenters counter that peanut restrictions can be distinguished from other allergen regulation because peanut allergies can be life threatening.  However, a few other commenters do argue that regulating only peanuts would ignore the dangers from other allergens (e.g., pets, perfumes, latex products), and they support a broader regulatory approach.

7 0 Industry Self Regulation vs. Governmental Regulation

About a dozen commenters say that restricting peanuts on airplanes is beyond the legitimate scope of government regulation.  Several others predict that the airline industry will self regulate in response to consumer demand for peanut free flights or because of fear of litigation.  Commenters debated whether peanut allergies are covered under existing regulation and legislation (including the American with Disabilities Act) and how allergy litigation would turn out.

8 2 Enforceability Problems

Many commenters are concerned that enforcing a ban or other regulation of peanut products would be impossible.  This concern is expressed by both people in favor of peanut regulation and people against it.  Many say that neither airlines nor the government could completely eliminate peanut products on planes, especially with private individuals bringing them on board.  Because of enforceability concerns, some worry that regulation might give peanut allergy suffers a false sense of security.  Whether they are for or against peanut regulation, most commenters who discuss enforceability feel that allergy sufferers have a personal responsible for taking precautions (see below).

9 0 Economic Costs: About a dozen commenters raise concerns that regulating peanuts will create undue costs, both for airlines and for the peanut industry.  Most add that it should be the responsibility of the allergy sufferer to take necessary precautions.  A few commenters countered that banning peanuts is similar to other substances already banned from airlines and could easily be included in existing lists of banned products and substances.

10 0 Possible Regulatory Response: Ban Peanuts on All Flights

More than sixty commenters say that some sort of peanut-restricting regulation is appropriate.  (In general, pro-restriction commenters think the scientific evidence is sufficient to justify regulatory action, consider peanut allergies different enough from other allergies that there would not be slippery slope problems, and say that any infringement on personal rights and freedom is outweighed by the danger to peanut allergy sufferers.)  Of these commenters:

  • about one-third  say that banning peanuts on all flights is the only adequate solution.
  • about one-half support something short of a total ban:  these are divided between favoring peanut free flights or peanut-free zones (see next section);
  • the remainder support restricting peanuts but are not specific about how DOT Department of Transportation should do this.

Pro-restriction commenters are divided on how broad the restriction needs to be.  The first question is whom the restriction should cover.  Of the commenters who specifically addressed this issue, some think the restriction should apply only to what airlines serve; the rest think it should also apply to what passengers may bring onto the plane.  Those who think passengers must be covered are worried about any source of peanut residue on plane surfaces or peanut particles in the air.  Those who think only airline peanut service should be covered are concerned that a passenger restriction would be too difficult to enforce.  Furthermore, they say that many passengers  opening bags of peanuts at the same time (as happens when an airline serves peanuts) is considerably more dangerous than an isolated passenger consuming peanut products.  The second question is what products should be restricted.  Of the commenters who specifically addressed this issue, a few would restrict only whole peanuts; the rest would include peanut products such as peanut butter and candy bars containing peanuts.  No one argued that food items that may contain peanuts, that are processed in a facility where peanuts are processed, or that just contain peanut oil need to be restricted.

About twenty commenters oppose a total ban on peanut products on airplanes.  Anti-ban commenters tend to raise concerns about a slippery slope of over-regulation.  Also, because many believe that scientific evidence does not establish the need for a restriction, they worry about unwarranted limits on personal rights and freedoms.  Some point out that peanuts are a good high protein snack for travelers, especially children, and is one of the few in-flight snack options available to people on gluten-free diets.

11 0 Possible Regulatory Response: Create Peanut-Free Flights or Peanut-Free Zones

Among the commenters favoring some sort of peanut-restricting regulation, about a dozen support peanut-free zones—that is, a ban that applies to designated rows in the aircraft.  Several pro-restriction commenters think this approach is inadequate because they are concerned about peanut particles in recycled air and peanut oils being spread throughout the plane.

Among commenters favoring some sort of peanut-restricting regulation, roughly 20 think that peanut-free flights are a good solution.  Commenters who support a complete ban argue that, from a practical point of view, partial bans wouldn’t work because of peanut residue and airborne particles.  They point out that peanut free flights would not necessarily require airlines to maintain peanut-free aircraft.  They also note that if a flight were delayed, the allergy sufferer could miss a peanut-free connecting flight.

Those in favor of peanut-free zones or flights tend also to advocate some sort of airline accommodation, such as including epinephrine auto-injectors in first aid kits or allowing allergic passengers to pre-board to clean off their seating areas (see below).

The discussion summarized in the previous section about whether a restriction should cover only airline peanut service, or also what passengers bring on the plane, also applies to peanut-free flights.  The discussion about whether a restriction should apply to only whole peanuts, or also to products containing peanuts, also applies to both peanut-free flights and peanut-free zones.

Some of the commenters who think a total ban on peanuts is unjustified (see previous section) also oppose peanut-free flights.  Several argue that if such flights are created, airlines should be required to give all ticket holders clear, advance communication that their flight will be peanut-free.  This is important because, for example, passengers with gluten free diets often rely on peanuts as snacks.  Similarly, some of the commenters who oppose a full ban also oppose peanut-free zones.  They point to excessive government regulation, a lack of scientific evidence, infringement on personal rights, and the need for all passengers to have healthy, protein-filled snacks as reasons for their view.

12 0 Possible Regulatory Response:  Education

Some commenters who support peanut-restricting regulation also see a need for more education. About a dozen commenters are concerned about the stigma attached to those who suffer from peanut allergies, and a similar number favor more wide-spread education about the problem.  Some told stories of personal embarrassment or ridicule when they requested that no peanuts be consumed during the flight.  Many suggested that flight personnel be required to receive training about allergies, and should be expected to be more sympathetic to afflicted passengers. No commenters specifically opposed more widespread education about peanut allergies, although as noted earlier in this summary, there is sharp disagreement about the extent, nature and severity of the problem.

13 0 Possible Regulatory Response:  Personal Responsibility Rather than Regulation

More than 50 commenters, including many who support total or partial bans of peanuts on flights or other accommodations, mention the allergy sufferer’s personal responsibility to take  precautions.  No commenter argued that allergy sufferer should not have some kind of role in ensuring that they do not have reactions.  The disagreement came about what this responsibility should be, and whether airlines and other passengers also have a role in reducing the risk of allergic reactions.

Many of the commenters who oppose any peanut restricting regulation (see above) say they take this position because the problem is the personal responsibility of allergy sufferers.  Several offer suggestions  for how those allergic to peanuts can protect themselves: wearing surgical masks or clean room suits, carrying and using epinephrine auto-injectors, and bringing anti-bacterial wipes on board to sanitize seating.  Those who support some peanut-restricting regulation respond that these suggestions are either ineffective or unrealistic.  They are concerned that self precaution is not enough to prevent potentially serious reactions.  Specifically, with respect to epinephrine auto-injectors, many commenters note that these are intended to provide only a temporary solution until additional medical treatment can be obtained, and that this will be impossible on many flights.  Some also say that the use of Epi-pens is not entirely risk-free, especially when multiple injectors must be used.

14 0 Possible Regulatory Solution:  Accommodations by Airlines other than Peanut Restrictions

More than thirty commenters made various suggestions for how airlines could accommodate those concerned about peanut allergy reactions:

  • Planes should have epinephrine auto-injectors available, and flight staff should be trained in using them.
  • Airlines should provide surgical masks, gloves, wipes, and cleansuits.
  • DOT should create a passenger’s bill of rights/responsibilities to encourage people with allergies to carry two or more self-injectors.
  • Airlines should give people with food allergies the option to board the plane early.
  • Airlines should print any food restrictions (such as a peanut-free flight) on the ticket and boarding pass.
  • Airlines should make any allergy accommodation plans easily accessible on their websites, so individual customers can make informed decisions.
  • Airlines should disclose the ingredients of meals and snacks before passengers are required to pay for/receive them.

Of the commenters who made at least one suggestion for accommodation, about one-third say that airlines should have to make some accommodation but that peanut-restricting regulation is not appropriate.  The remaining two-thirds say that accommodations should be on top of some type of peanut-restricting regulation.  Many of those who favor airline accommodations also favor education about peanut allergies, as well as personal responsibility of allergy sufferers to take precautions.