HomeNew report from the Canadian Transportation Agency on air travel and food allergies

New report from the Canadian Transportation Agency on air travel and food allergies

August 29, 2016

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) recently released its report from a Ministerial Inquiry that reviewed current practices for managing food allergies for peanuts, tree nuts and sesame seeds on Canadian airlines. The inquiry was mandated by the Minister of Transportation, following the CTA’s rulings on specific allergy-related cases that focused on those three specific allergens.

The report findings will be used for future CTA actions, which could include the “development of standards, either regulatory or voluntary performance-based ones, and guidance material to address the issue on a systemic basis”.

Food Allergy Canada was one of several key stakeholders who were asked to provide input during the inquiry. (The link to our response letter is at the end of this post.)

CTA’s findings and our recommendations
Although there wasn’t consensus amongst all key stakeholders on how to reduce the risk of anaphylaxis during air travel, the CTA considers the measures below to be the most effective based on the information obtained during the inquiry.

You will also find the recommendations we provided the CTA for each of the measures.

Stock Epinephrine

  • CTA’s findings: Air carriers are not required to carry “stock” epinephrine, an auto-injector (e.g. EpiPen®) that is not prescribed to an individual, but can be used by non-medical professionals to treat anyone experiencing a severe allergic reaction.
  • Our recommendations: Currently, many aircrafts carry vials of epinephrine, which require a medical professional to administer. We recommend all aircrafts carry stock epinephrine auto-injectors, which are meant to be used by non-medical professionals, to help treat a reaction.

Flight crew training

  • CTA’s findings: Train flight crews on signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction.
  • Our recommendations: Mandatory training for in-flight staff, which would include how to identify signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction; what to do in an emergency (using a standard protocol); and proper use of epinephrine auto-injectors.

 Buffer zone

  • CTA’s findings: Create a buffer zone consisting of the row the allergic passenger is in and not serving meals or snacks containing peanuts, nuts or sesame seeds in the buffer zone.
  • Our recommendations: Retain buffer zones requirements currently in place with Canadian airline providers, until additional research is conducted to advise on the effectiveness of buffer zones.

In-flight announcement

  • CTA’s findings: Advise other passengers within the buffer zone that they must refrain from eating peanuts, nuts or sesame seeds or foods containing them.
  • Our recommendations: Make a cabin-wide announcement, upon a passenger’s request, informing other passengers that there is someone on board with peanut, nut or sesame seed allergies. Passengers may be asked to refrain from consuming these products during the flight.

Communication with passengers with food allergies

  • CTA’s findings: Advise passengers who provide advanced notification of their allergies about safety measures they can take, such as carrying their EpiPens® and bringing their own food.
  • Our recommendations: Upon booking and again at check-in on the day of travel, inform the passenger of the airline’s allergy policy, including a reminder for the person to carry their EpiPens® onboard and bring their own food for the flight.


  • CTA’s findings: Allow passengers to pre-board to wipe down their seating areas.
  • Our recommendations: Have specific protocols for airline staff in place for cleaning areas of an aircraft where a person with allergies is to be seated and provide passengers with the option of pre-boarding so they have the opportunity to clean the area themselves with cleaning wipes.

Website information

  • CTA’s findings: Have allergy policies on air carrier websites.
  • Our recommendations: Have written policies and procedures in place for accommodating passengers with food allergies, which are easily accessed on air carrier websites. This provides travellers with food allergies the information they need to make informed decisions prior to booking their flight and plan accordingly.

Next steps
We thank the CTA for their continuous commitment to improving air travel safety and service for people with food allergies.

Although many of our recommendations have been integrated into the final report, there are a few key areas we feel require further consideration by the CTA. As such, we will continue advocating for the overall safety of allergic passengers during airline travel with a specific focus on mandatory flight crew training and stock epinephrine.

We are meeting with the CTA about these recommendations and will keep you updated as the report develops into further action.

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About the Canadian Transportation Agency
From the Government of Canada’s website: “The Canadian Transportation Agency (Agency) is an independent quasi-judicial tribunal of the Government of Canada. Part V of the Agency’s enabling statute, the Canada Transportation Act, S.C., 1996, c. 10 (CTA), contains accessible transportation provisions which confer on the Agency the responsibility to eliminate undue obstacles to the mobility of persons with disabilities within the federal transportation network. The importance attached by Parliament to this responsibility is reflected both in Canada’s national transportation policy contained in section 5 of the CTA and in the legislation’s substantive provisions that mandate the elimination of undue obstacles in the network through regulation and complaint adjudication on a wide range of matters.”



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