Food Allergy Advocacy Update: Airline Legislation

In 2014, FARE convened a coalition of patient advocacy groups that focused on challenges with air travel. This work resulted in legislation introduced in the U.S. Congress last August to address airline safety for passengers with food allergies. S 1972, the Airline Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, was introduced by U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and co-sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA). The bill was timed with the work of the U.S. Senate to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Airplane image: new law aims to improve air travel for food allergies

Thousands of food allergy families have expressed support for this legislation since then, and we sincerely thank everyone who wrote a letter or called their senators. The bill would have:

  • directed the FAA to require air carriers and foreign air carriers to clarify that the 1:1,000 epinephrine ampules included in emergency medical kits carried on aircraft be used for the treatment of anaphylaxis (food allergies);
  • directed the FAA to require air carriers to carry on each aircraft at least two packs of epinephrine auto-injectors for use as the initial treatment for anaphylaxis and to replace them upon expiration or use;
  • directed the FAA to require air carriers to train air crewmembers on how to recognize the symptoms of an acute allergic reaction and how to administer auto-injectable epinephrine; and
  • directed the Government Accountability Office to report to Congress on air carrier policies relating to passengers with food allergies.

Last week, the Senate passed the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2017 (S. 2658), with different, but related, provisions pertaining to allergy preparedness. Specifically, S. 2658 directs the FAA to:

  1. evaluate the medical equipment and supplies required on airline flights and
  2. ensure that the required items meet the emergency medical needs of children.

This bill mentions epinephrine auto-injectors specifically. While we have not yet achieved all of our goals for this effort, we are pleased that the Senate has heard our concerns. We are now turning our attention to the House.

FARE is also continuing to advocate for a study by the Federal General Accounting Office of airline policies and practices regarding passengers with food allergies and is pursuing multiple avenues to get this included in legislation as well. We will keep everyone apprised of next steps and opportunities for the community to take action and be heard once again.

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