Decision No. 178-AT-A-2016

June 8, 2016

Ministerial Inquiry into allergies to peanuts, nuts and sesame seeds for commercial air passengers.

Case number: 

By letter dated February 27, 2015, the former Minister of Transport, Lisa Raitt, P.C., M.P. (Minister), pursuant to section 49 of the Canada Transportation Act, S.C., 1996, c.10, as amended, (CTA), directed the Canadian Transportation Agency (Agency) to conduct an inquiry into the issue of passenger allergies to peanuts, nuts and sesame seeds on board aircraft with 30 or more seats on domestic and international flights operated by Canadian air carriers, and on international flights to and from Canada operated by foreign air carriers.

The former Minister requested that the following issues be examined:

  1. the risk of anaphylaxis due to adverse contact with, ingestion and inhalation of peanut, nut and sesame seed allergens while on board aircraft with 30 or more passenger seats; and,
  2. the effectiveness of current risk mitigation measures, including those set out in Decision No. 228-AT-A-2011.

The Agency, pursuant to subsection 38(1) of the CTA, appointed Mary-Jane Gravelle, Director of the Agency’s Centre of Expertise for Accessible Transportation (Inquiry Officer), to undertake the inquiry and report her findings to the Agency. The Agency provided the Inquiry Officer with the authority to exercise all the powers described in section 39 of the CTA in undertaking the inquiry.

The Inquiry Officer conducted the inquiry and prepared a report containing findings of fact, analysis and conclusions in respect of the above-noted issues.

In order to assist with the inquiry, the Inquiry Officer obtained a report from Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, a medical doctor in allergies and immunology, on the risk of anaphylaxis due to exposure to peanut, nut and sesame seed allergens on board aircraft. The Inquiry Officer also obtained a report on exposure to these allergens in aircraft cabins from a multi-disciplinary group within the National Research Council with expertise in aerospace engineering, indoor air quality, ventilation, environmental health, and exposure science.

Domestic air carriers and allergy associations were consulted as part of the inquiry process and provided an opportunity to comment on the expert reports. Their feedback, in addition to the expert reports and research on allergy policies of domestic and foreign air carriers, form part of the Inquiry Report that was presented to the Agency.

The Agency has examined the Inquiry Officer’s report and, pursuant to subsection 38(2) of the CTA, accepts the report. The Agency will use it to inform future Agency actions aimed at addressing, on a systemic basis, issues related to allergies to peanuts, nuts and sesame seeds in air travel. These actions could include the development of new standards, potentially as part of the Agency’s regulatory modernization efforts, and guidance material.

Finally, the Agency notes that the Inquiry Officer’s report contains information that may warrant a review of Decision No. 228-AT-A-2011, as well as Decision No. 134-AT-A-2013. Section 32 of the CTA provides that the Agency may review, rescind or vary any decision or order if there has been a change in the facts or circumstances pertaining to the decision, order or hearing.


Scott Streiner
Sam Barone
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