The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently released a series of proposals to ban or restrict the distribution of peanuts on commercial airline flights in the United States. In response to the proposed changes, I drafted a letter to DOT Secretary Ray LaHood to outline my concerns with banning peanuts on airlines. A ban would cause great harm to the peanut industry in Alabama, which provides thousands of jobs and pumps hundreds of millions of dollars in the economy.
This is not the first time these policies have been considered. Similar guidance was offered by the DOT in 1998 but was ultimately abandoned after Congress barred the use of funds to implement suggested changes to airline peanut policy. The proposed changes include: a complete ban, a requirement that airlines offer a "peanut free" flight if requested in advance by a passenger with a peanut allergy, or a requirement to create "peanut-free buffer zones'' on flights for passengers with allergies.
It is my belief that any ban or restriction on peanuts in airplanes is not supported by science and is a clear case of overreach on the part of the federal government. The result would inevitably be the loss of American jobs and a huge blow to one of the economic engines in Southeast Alabama. While I understand that some travelers are anxious about the possibility of allergic reactions to airborne peanut particles in airplanes, scientific research shows this concern is unwarranted, suggesting that the DOT's proposal is a solution in search of a problem.
At the time this column is written, I plan to have a conference call scheduled on Tuesday with Secretary LaHood to express my strong disapproval of the proposed changes. Other Members of Congress who represent districts with high peanut yields have also expressed similar concerns.
It is my hope that DOT will rethink these proposals. If they move forward with the proposed ban, however, Congress can take action to block any funds being used to implement a peanut ban, as they did in 1998. Please be assured I will continue to fight against a peanut