British Airways recently announced that "flight attendants will ask passengers not to consume nut products if someone around them has been identified as a nut allergy sufferer."(British Airways set to become the world's first major carrier to ask peanuts not to eat nuts if someone nearby is allergic to them, Daily Mail February 15, 2016) This is a departure from British Airways' past policies for passengers with food allergies, and the news has been widely celebrated by food allergy advocates and food allergy families in the United States, Canada and in Europe. For additional reading on the recent British Airways policy change, please see Allergic Living's article, British Airways Crews Soon to Make Peanut and Nut Allergy Accouncements.
While this policy change is welcome news for those managing peanut and nut allergies, not all individuals with food allergies are celebrating. Why? A buffer zone for travelers with peanut or nut allergies, and the announcement of such a buffer zone benefits only individuals with peanut and nut allergies. While those with other non- peanut/nut food allergies--such as seafood, sesame or pepper allergies--undoubtedly appreciate the celebration by those managing peanut and nut allergies, they may be feeling a bit overlooked. Eight foods make up 90% of the food allergies in the US--"milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, what, soy, fish and shellfish". According to FARE, the rate of milk and egg allergies among young children is approximately 1-2%, and 0.2-0.4% in the general population. 1.2% of the U.S. population has shellfish allergies and 2.8% of adults in the U.S. are allergic to all seafood. (This information is available on The Food Allergy Facts and Statistics sheet from FARE.) Various sources state that there are anywhere between 120 to 150 foods to which people may be allergic. That is a lot of people with a lot of different food allergies!
WHAT CAN BE DONE
What is the solution? What can be done to make air travel safer for all individuals with life threatening food and other allergies? Take heart, friends with non top-8 food allergies or non- peanut/nut allergies, you are not forgotten, not in the slightest! National organizations have been hard at work for quite some time, pushing for change in air travel for all individuals with food allergies.
There is a bill in the U.S. Senate which would provide significant safety measures that would benefit all individuals with life threatening food allergies--the Airline Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act (S. 1972), which was introduced by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) in August 2015. This bill is supported by a coalition which includes FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education), the Association of Flight Attendants, the Allergy & Asthma Network, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) and No Nut Traveler. Per Senator Kirk's press release, "The Airline Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act (S.1972) would require airlines to maintain a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors on commercial aircraft and to train flight crews on proper administration in the event of an allergy attack. " The press release from Senator Mark Kirk's office provides a good summary of the bill's provisions. (See also this previous Food Allergy Buzz post about S.1972.)
HOW YOU CAN HELP
- Write to your senators! If you do not know who your senators are, visit this page on the FARE website where you can search for elected officials by state, zip code or address. You will see that information about this legislation is available on that page as well.
- Tell other people about the legislation and encourage them to contact their senators too! If you see a blog post or article supporting this legislation, share it or tweet about it! Every little bit helps! This legislation should be on the lips of every person in the U.S. who is managing life threatening food allergies.