Last month, the Federal Transportation Department announced it was soliciting comments from the public on a proposal to ban peanuts on airlines. It was an effort to protect the nation’s estimated 1.8 million nut allergy sufferers from accidental airborne contact with peanuts. For some sufferers, even contact with a minute amount of peanut dust is capable of triggering a life-threatening reaction.
But it turn out the bureaucrats who thought up the proposed peanut ban were exceeding their authority. According to published reports, Federal law prevents the Department of Transportation from instituting such restrictions without commissioning and publishing a peer-reviewed scientific paper demonstrating that those with peanut allergies could truly benefit from the change in policy.
There is no such study on peanuts planned at this time. Nonetheless, the federal government is still asking the public to chime in on the matter of peanuts vs. the friendly skies. It’s not clear, however, why they are bothering unless they believe that giving those suffering with nut allergies an opportunity to vent is a public service.
This is not the first time federal transportation authorities have attempted to cancel peanut service on airplanes. A similar proposal was floated in the late 1990s, but retracted when an angry Congress threatened to cut the department’s budget if they did not back down from banning the nut.
A number of carriers, including Continental, Jet Blue and United no longer serve peanuts to their passengers though others, including Southwest and Delta, still offer flyers the controversial snack.
The proposed peanut ban always struck me as well intentioned but more than a bit impractical and hard to enforce. As airlines have cut back on everything from in-flight meals to beverage carts, more and more passengers have resorted to bringing their own food with them when they fly. I don’t know about you, but I found it hard to believe already overworked security screeners were really going to spend time chasing down contraband legumes. Besides, I would guess nuts are pretty easy to miss in a pre-boarding inspection in any case.
What do you think?