Letter to American Airlines re: Food Allergy Policy

Here at One Dish Cuisine Cafe, Deli and Bakery, we have the most amazing customers! The following letter is from our young customer, Leah, who is a teenager, asking American Airlines to re-think their food allergy policy.  Leah has a peanut allergy and so does her brother. I think you all will beyond impressed with this letter and the research she did in order to write this wonderful letter!

13 March, 2017

Mr. Robert Isom, American Airlines

Dear Mr. Isom,

American Airlines is an amazing machine of prominent leadership, in charge of thousands of people per day. And leaders all over the world should continuously be in tune to human needs and safety, making sure that those they are in charge of are both safe and happy. This includes the 3 million people in the world who suffer from anaphylactic nut allergies, who put their lives and safety into your hands (Idiom?) whenever they fly American. According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), “every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room” (Logos). People with food allergies live in fear of this statistic, everyday tasks made tricky. Flying is a whole other story. But American can be the airline allergic people come to, the airline they trust (Anaphora). It is American’s time to step up as a leader in the food allergy community, American’s time to save lives everyday because of positive safety measures installed for food allergies. It is American’s time, Mr. Isom. (Repetition)

Recently, there have been complaints against your airline for mishandling and lack of knowledge regarding food allergies. In a New York Times article, lawyer Mary Vargas (Ethos) states that “when [nut allergic] families request permission to pre board [and wipe their seat free of nut allergens]…they risk being taken off the flight” a negligent mark on American Airlines’ policies (Rabin 2). Not only is this bad publicity for an airline like American, and heartbreaking for those being kicked off the plane, it may be illegal. According to FARE, “American Airlines’ policy is a violation of the Air Carrier Access Act, which provides that no air carrier may discriminate against any…individual with a disability” [Logos/Ethos] (Russell 3). Since food allergies are a fatal disability under the law, American Airlines not allowing passengers to accommodate for their allergies (no “nut buffer zones”, no pre-boarding, etc) is not legal. Should American really be defined by discriminatory policies and illegal actions? (Rhetorical Question) That goes against all the excellent values of quality, dedication, and service that the airline stands for! And everytime American denies a nut allergic passenger the right to fly, or hassles them about a disability they cannot control, they not only lose a customer. They truly hurt someone, or worse, endanger their life.

Food allergies are not only tricky to manage, they are terrifying (Personification). The constant checking of the labels. The knowledge that a peanut butter sandwich is poison (Metaphor). All people with food allergies want is to feel safe, and be treated like any other person. Take it from Roseanne Bloom, a mother who was kicked off an American plane because her two sons had nut allergies. She writes, “several AA employees approached us…and told us we were not able to fly [on American]…your employees were condescending and rude…my boys felt discriminated against and were treated as if they had done something wrong…what had we done wrong?” [Pathos] (Bloom 2). What did they do wrong? (Rhetorical Question) Why should anybody be stopped because of an immune system response they cannot control? Denying nut allergic passengers the right to fly is not the answer to the problem. It hurts more than it benefits. When a young girl flies American and reports “employees were joking about her severe allergies…[being] very rude” it not only reflects negatively on the airline, it makes a disabled person feel terrible about something that they cannot control [Pathos] (Rabin 3). Food allergic people do not deserve to be treated like scum (Simile), or even worse than non allergic counterparts- it’s the opposite. They deserve to be on an airline that takes the time to care about their needs, and ensure they have a safe flight. Just like they would anyone else. Other airlines have already began to find solutions to make sure allergies are not an issue on their flight. American Airlines undoubtedly has the power and standing to follow suit. Will you take this opportunity to help the 15 million in the world with food allergies? (Logos, Rhetorical Question)

Other airlines, such as Delta and JetBlue, have already found solutions (Bandwagon) to protect those with food allergies and help them get where they need to go. In an NY Times article, Sydney Silverman reports an excellent food allergy experience with Delta Airlines- recalling “a flight attendant asking people…‘Is it o.k if I don’t serve you peanuts on the flight?’, and they all said yes” [Dialogue] (Rabin 3). The attendant also made an announcement over the intercom to say they were not serving peanuts because of an on board allergy. No passengers complained or fought the allergy- and the flight went smoothly. Meanwhile, American’s policy says ‘We are not able to provide nut buffer zones, nor are we able to allow passengers to pre board to wipe down seats’. The policy also proclaims that nuts will still be served in the midst of a food allergy. These policies must be changed as food allergies continue to rise, and more allergic passengers look for an airline to protect them in the sky. One may agree with Dr. Andrew Craig of the American Peanut Council, [Ethos] who says that “the evidence about the perceived risks of eating nuts on planes has been presented [as low]” (Craig 2). But one man’s findings do not erase the story of Alisa Gleason, who “went into anaphylactic shock on board a…flight when a woman sitting several rows in front…opened a bag of peanuts” (Wicker 2). Or the story of a young 4 yr old, when “a passenger [despite warnings] sitting several rows away…opened a bag of nuts. The girl stopped breathing but luckily survived” (Wicker 3). Those stories could have gone many different ways. They could have ended in tragedy and loss. Or they could have not happened at all, because an airline took time to secure passenger safety. There could have been buffer zones, stricter warnings for non allergic passengers on board, a no nut flight, etc. (Enumeration) Allergies are on the rise, and sufferers need someone to take the time to care and protect them. It can be you, Mr. Isom. (Direct Address) A little extra time and preparation can save a life. Your motto says you are “The World’s Greatest Flyers.” And if you care about those with food allergies, saving lives and gaining new customers everyday- you truly will be.

I want to thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and hope it inspired an idea of change in American Airline’s policies of dealing with food allergies. A lot of people do not really understand food allergies, or their fatality. But American can be the ones to help them understand, through excellent policies and safety measures. Because while allergic people still struggle to fly safely, the issue of food allergies on planes remains unresolved. American can be the ones to solve it once and for all, providing a safe place for nut allergic customers. The rewards of saving lives of nut-allergic people outweigh the benefits of discriminating against them. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Leah Packer

Works Cited:

Bloom, Roseanne. “American Airlines Nut Policy.” 25 Dec. 2016. Letter.

Craig, Andrew. “Nuts on Planes.” PeanutUSA.com, 2014, http://www.peanutsusa.com/about-peanuts/health-nutrition/186-nuts-on-planes-myths-media-and-facts.html. Accessed 10 Mar. 2017.

Rabin, Roni Caryn. “Travelers With Nut Allergies Clash With Airlines.” NyTimes.com, 26 Jan. 2017, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/26/well/family/travelers-with-nut-allergies-clash-with-airlines.html. Accessed 6 Mar. 2017.

Russell, Ben. “WATCH LIVE:  Streaming Now: NBC 5 News logo_dfw_2x HomeNews LocalNBC 5 InvestigatesNBC 5 RespondsHealth ConnectionTexas NewsVideo Vault U.S. & WorldWeirdTraffic WeatherSportsEntertainment Few Clouds69° Connect  American Airlines Allergy Policy Discriminates: Complaint.” Nbc.com, 11 Jan. 2017, http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Allergy-Advocates-File-Complaint-Against-American-Airlines-410365005.html. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017.

Wicker, Amy. “Flying with Nut Allergies.” AllergySafeTravel.com, Jan. 2015, allergysafetravel.com/2015/01/flying-with-nut-allergies-a-call-to-action-2/. Accessed 9 Mar. 2017.

New Info From the 2017 GF Education Day

On Sunday June 11,  I had the pleasure to attend and speak at the Washington DC Gluten Free Education Day again this year. Each year this great event is made possible by the Celiac Disease Program at Children’s National Medical Center. In addition, our bakers Emily and Jennifer did a cooking demonstration of our quick breads.  I spoke about the pitfalls of FALCPA (Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act) and the GF Labeling Act and also gave some hints for easy weeknight meals.

This was a wonderful event for those who were newly diagnosed and those who are long time Celiacs got to learn what was new.  There were many activity sessions for children and so many well qualified speakers for adult sessions,  Unfortunately, I could not attend them all.  However, I was most impressed by the keynote presentation; The State of Celiac Disease- Current Research, Latest Advances and Mass Screening Protocols. Below are my notes from the session.

Dr Ivor Hill, Nationwide Celiac Disease Center Ohio; The Quintessential Autoimmune Disorder

-We know more about Celiac Disease than any other autoimmune disease! In 1888 Samuel Gee stated that diet would be the only cure. In 1950 William-Karel Dicke identified wheat, rye and barley as the problem.

-Factors in Celiac Disease are genetics, environmental factors, diet and other unknown triggers.

-Testing Recommendations are antibody blood testing, intestinal Biopsy and Genetic HLA Screening.

-Other grains that may be problematic for Celiacs are: Teff, Oats, Millet because they are in the same family! (Yup, they are a problem for me)

-Genetics; HLA and non HLA Genes found on chromosome 6, you can have DQ2 or DQ28 or both..they are necessary but not sufficient. There are many different versions of DQ2 and DQ8 genes with 40 different mutations associated. There is an autoimmune overlap.

-Trigger Factors; age, progression, prevalence, infections (rotovirus, adenovirus, stress, pregnancy and the Microbiome (lining of intestines) which is a trigger factor and is very different in those with Celiac.

-Research Treatments; Gluten Detox; grain modification is problematic due to the peptides in wheat. Glutenase; enzyme to relieve symptoms after gluten exposure is questionable because our stomach acid can destroy the enzyme.

-Peptide Transport Blockage; problematic…Lorazotide prevents opening of tight junctions in intestine that would let gluten in, but it only lasts about 90 minutes.

-Antibody Blockage or Nexvac 2 will only target those with gene HLA DQ 2.5.

-Future Research: He feels that the future will identify more genes involved in Celiac Disease. Right now half of all cases are cases of people who are asymptomatic.

Dr Edwin Lui, Colorado Children’s Hospital Celiac Disease Center; Is it Time for Mass Screening?

-Celiac Disease is not rare. Right now in the US the rate is 1.3%, Finland is 2% and Sweden is 3% (1984-1996 of all 12 year olds).

-Incidence of Celiac Disease is rising and more people are developing it.

-Who should we screen? Many have no symptoms. Those that are at risk are:

Those with: Type 1 Diabetes (3-12%), Autoimmune Thyroid Disease (7%), Liver Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, IgA Deficiency, Downs Syndrome, Turner Syndrome, Pancreatic Disease, Kidney Disease, Addison’s Disease, Parathyroid Disease, Growth Hormone Deficiency, Family History.

-40% of population is at risk of developing Celiac Disease because they have DQ2 or DQ8 genes.

-Following children in Denver study found that 3% developed Celiac by age 15 while 5% developed the antibodies.

Dr Benny Kerzner, Celiac Disease Program Children’s National Health, Wash, DC; Best Practices for Management of Celiac Disease

-Dr Snyder, Dr Liu, Dr Fasano, etc, got together to set guidance for physicians for the care of those with Celiac Disease. Here are a couple of interesting points that he made. Some of this is new information for many of us!

-Check newly diagnosed Celiac for Autoimmune Thyroid Disease, Liver (AST and ALT) and Hepatitis B. (30-70% of Celiacs are non responsive to the Hep B Vaccine if they got it before they started on GF Diet! So make sure you get this taken care of.)

-Vitamin Deficiencies usually correct on their own once following a strict GF Diet…so they don’t usually screen for them unless there are issues that warrant it.  The same for bone density, etc.

Children's National