US may ban peanuts on flights
American regulators are considering a snack attack on America's airlines that would restrict or even completely ban serving peanuts on commercial flights.
Advocates say the move would ease fears and potential harm to an estimated 1.8 million Americans who suffer from peanut allergies.
Peanut farmers and food packagers, however, see it as overreaching and unfair.
"The peanut is such a great snack and such an American snack," said Martin Kanan, CEO of the King Nut Companies, an Ohio company that packages the peanuts served by most US airlines. "What's next? Is it banning peanuts in ballparks?"
Twelve years after Congress ordered it to back off peanuts, the US Transportation Department said it was gathering feedback from allergy sufferers, medical experts, the food industry and the public on whether to ban or restrict in-flight peanuts.
The peanut proposals were listed in an 84-page document including several other proposed consumer protections for air travellers. Three options were given: banning serving of peanuts on all planes; prohibiting peanuts only when an allergic passenger requests it in advance; or requiring an undefined "peanut-free zone" flight when a passenger asks for one.
Peanut allergy can cause life-threatening reactions in people ingesting even trace amounts. Just breathing peanut dust in the air can cause problems - though usually minor ones - such as itching, sneezing and coughing.
A few limited studies on airline passengers with peanut allergies found a number of people reporting symptoms while flying, but few were severe or life-threatening.
Several airlines such as Continental, United, US Airways and JetBlue have voluntarily stopped serving packaged peanuts as mile-high grub.
Delta and Southwest still hand out nuts as in-flight snacks, while American Airlines doesn't serve packaged peanuts, but it does offer trail mix and other snacks that can contain peanut ingredients.