Peanut Allergy Disability and a Can of Worms

Oh boy, you’d think that being deprived of peanuts and nuts for approximately 1-14 hours was akin to snatching a bottle out of a baby’s hands.  Add in food allergies being referred to as a disability and you’ve got people frothing at the mouth.

I’m referring, of course, to last week’s ruling by The Canadian Transportation Agency that Air Canada must treat peanut/nut allergic travelers as having a disability.  Air Canada now has 30 days to submit details for how they will accommodate these travelers or a reason why they are not able to.  The Canadian Transportation Agency mentioned a peanut/nut free buffer zone around the food allergic traveler as one possible measure that might be taken.  The details can be located on the CBC website at:  http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2010/01/07/air-canada-nuts.html.

But it’s not the news report that is causing the proverbial can of worms, it’s the ruling that indicated that peanut/nut allergies must be considered a disability and that Air Canada must make allowances for this as they do for other disabled passengers.  What the news report neglects to mention was that The Canadian Transportation Agency decided on the disability ruling after reviewing scientific data that indicates that peanut and nut proteins have been found in airplane air filtration systems, thus the suggestion of a buffer zone.  A nut allergic person would have a great deal of difficulty controlling the air filtration system on their own without assistance from airline policies restricting nuts both for snacks and what other travelers eat on board.

Reading the comments following the link above is not for the faint of heart but it is certainly indicative of the outright animosity that seems to accompany any news report about food allergies these days.  And everyone feels that they have a right to comment, which they do, but a little education before commenting might be nice along with an understanding of actual statistics.  Unfortunately, there’s even backlash within the allergic community because those with other food allergies haven’t been addressed by this ruling.  The food allergic/parents of food allergic kids who comment, trying to share a first hand account of their lives, are personally attacked, tarred and feathered.

But of course, who am I to be believed?  I’m just an hysterical, middle class mother who slathered herself in peanuts, almonds, kiwi, dairy and chickpeas while pregnant, nursing and raising her children in a desperate bid for food allergy Munchhausen.  And when that wasn’t quite enough attention, I decided to start a food allergy company to make even more parents, food allergic and intolerant people join in a larger scale social attention getting experiment.  Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for my husband’s shellfish allergy or my asthma and environmental allergies so I reluctantly concede that to our mothers.  Hmmm, what can I think of next before the pitchforks show up at my door?