According to the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, food allergies now affect about 5 per cent of all Australian children. Peanut allergy causes more problems than other food allergies and a severe allergic reaction is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment, but peanuts and peanut products feature regularly in airline food. So what are airlines doing about the problem? Some warn that nuts are served on board, including peanuts, and insist that passengers are responsible for their own well-being. Some go the extra yards, eliminating peanuts and peanut products, and asking flyers to refrain from eating peanuts when notified of passengers with a peanut allergy on the flight.
What's lacking is a combined approach, and that as well as industry-wide regulation is problematic. Given that exposure to a trace of peanut residue is enough to cause an allergic reaction in some sufferers, is it possible that airline regulators can impose a far-reaching ban? How could they guard against the possibility that a passenger might dip into a bowl of peanuts before boarding the aircraft and transfer peanut residue from their hands to cabin surfaces?
Those at risk of anaphylaxis are advised to carry an EpiPen, since this is not always part of an aircraft's standard medical equipment. EpiPens are allowed onboard aircraft in carry-on luggage, although passengers with EpiPens might have to notify security screening staff.
For passengers at risk of anaphylaxis, the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website has a travel plan and checklist.