Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
“It’s nuts not to ban nuts on flights!” a parent of a nut allergic child declared in 2017. Whilst not all food allergic individuals or family members agree with such a statement, nuts on airplanes has become a lightning rod for intense debates and arguments about food allergic individuals’ right to safety in air travel. Activist expert parents have been pushing to ban airlines from providing and selling nuts on-board, with some arguing that it should be extended to customers bringing nuts on-board. Drawing on empirical evidence from friends, acquaintances, news reports, and social media they argue that airborne reactions to nuts are putting people with nut allergies at unnecessary risk. Expert patient advocacy organizations in the UK, however, disagree. Drawing on scientific evidence from their medical boards, their position is that banning nuts is not viable, nor necessary. They argue that it will lead to a false sense of security and, drawing on medical research, argue that airborne nut reactions are rare and more likely a result of contact contamination—touching something and then ingesting it accidentally. These different positions are held in significant tension as activist parents critique the expert patient organizations’ position. This paper explores these tensions by analyzing the ways in which different kinds of accountability shape how these activist experts—both parents and organizations—collect, read, and understand current scientific and empirical research, and how this knowledge is then operationalized in their efforts to advocate for the UK food allergy community.