Where is the evidence to support nut-free buffer zones on airplanes?

Madely Health Headlines Commentary for January 8, 2010


Air Canada ordered to create nut-free buffer zones


This is a classic illustration of poor risk evaluation. There is no information available in this article to help me answer the basic questions when examining a health claim.

How many people suffer anaphylactic reactions on airplanes that require emergency treatment? How many have died? What is the incidence of these occurrences?

Has there been any evidence to show what the risk reduction would be with setting this policy? Will there be any subsequent evaluation to look at outcomes? And if the outcome demonstrates little to no reduction of risk or incidence, will there be a push to rescind this edict?

Have proactive measures by people who have nut allergies prior to boarding the plane been sufficient to prevent anaphylaxis?

This is a classic illustration of the precautionary principle eloquently discussed by this man.

An exerpt from the website Junkfood Science illustrates this point.

Food allergy deaths have only been tracked by the CDC since 1998, using death certificates coded using ICD-10 classifications (the 10th edition of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases). ICD-10 hasn’t yet been universally adopted, which makes the accuracy of its figure unreliable. It reports that of 2.5 million deaths among all ages in the U.S. in 2005, 11 people died from a food allergy in 2005, with the number from peanuts unknown.

Perhaps the most accurate population data on peanut-related deaths among children comes from the UK. Its national death statistics and pediatric surveillance system has recorded death statistics for nearly all children and it reported that only one child, a 15-year old, died from a peanut allergy between 1990 and 2000.

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