Peanuts can't be banned on flights without proof, DOT says
6/30/2010 7:01 By Charisse Jones, USA TODAY
It's much ado about peanuts.
The Transportation Department has asked the public for weeks to comment on whether the once-popular, but increasingly rare, snack for passengers should be banned or restricted on airline flights for the sake of those who suffer serious allergies.
But whichever way public sentiment falls, there can be no ban on peanuts without scientific proof to back it up.
The department issued a clarification last week saying that it would abide by a provision in decade-old funding legislation that says no airline can be made to stop serving peanuts until 90 days after Congress and the Transportation secretary receive a peer-reviewed study that finds "severe" allergic reactions to the tiny peanut particles that might be present on a plane.
The department isn't commissioning such a study, but the public can continue to weigh in until Aug. 9, and the comments will be reviewed.
A possible ban was among consumer protection rules proposed by the department earlier this month. It also proposed raising compensation for fliers who are bumped off oversold flights.
Restricting peanuts was important to some peanut-allergy sufferers who choose not to fly for fear of a reaction in the middle of a flight.
Jennifer Roeder of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network in Fairfax, Va., says, "The most practical solution ... would be to simply discontinue serving packaged peanut snacks on all flights."
Several airlines have quit serving peanuts, including Continental, JetBlue, United, Virgin America and American. But some caution that they serve products that contain other types of nuts or are made in facilities where peanuts are handled.
Delta, the world's biggest airline, is among the few carriers that continue to serve peanuts.