Peanut Dust Lingers on Airplane Tray Tables, Restaurant Surfaces

in Food Allergy
Published: March 15, 2016

Three Mayo Clinic researchers set out with sampling equipment to gain a sense of how much Ara h2 peanut protein can be found in public environments, such as airplanes and restaurants and retail outlets.

Mayo Clinic's Dr. Jay Jin presents his research at the AAAAI meeting in Los Angeles. Photo: Allergic Living

In airplanes, they found the highest levels of peanut protein on tray tables on flights where peanuts were served. It was in fact greater than the amount of peanut dust found on the tabletops of a restaurant where peanuts can be shelled and eaten at the table.

And even on a flight where peanuts were not served, Dr. Jay Jin and his colleagues found the Ara h2 was still easily measured.

“The majority of Ara h2 that we could detect was generally located on the surfaces within these locations – so tray tables and seat on the airplane, and in restaurants where people could shell peanuts on the table top,” Jin told a news conference at the AAAAI annual meeting in March 2016.

“But we had a really, really hard time detecting these allergens in the air.”

Peanut on Tray Tables Not in Air

“People report having potential reactions to inhaled peanut allergens, and though it’s hard to conclusively rule that out with our data, it does seem more likely that exposure may actually be coming from touching surfaces and then accidentally ingesting that way,” he said.

Since those with food allergies are told to avoid even trace exposures, Jin said a takeaway message from these findings is: “When traveling or entering one of these locations where you see peanut, it would be advisable to wipe the surfaces you may be touching so you can remove your potential exposure to those allergens.”

Restaurants that didn’t offer peanuts in the dining area had neglible peanut protein, as did the tables at libraries. But high levels were found at yogurt shop counters that offered peanuts as a topping.

In this small study, air samples were collected using personal breathing zone samplers and large samplers. Surfaces were wiped with Teflon membranes for sample collection.

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