FDA report reveals airline food could pose health threat


I am sure you have travelled in domestic airline in the United States.  The airline industry has gone in direction of a bus service, where hospitality, especially the food service has been reduced to bare minimum.  You can get a measured quantity of a non-alcoholic beverage and may be a small bag of peanut or pretzels.  According to a recent report, the catering facilities of airline industry are not maintaining hygienic conditions and passengers are at risk of illness.  USA Today reviewed documents prepared after inspection of catering services.  It was noted that Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspectors have cited that many catering services violated health and sanitation standards. 

Who are major airline catering services?
Three major catering companies, namely LSG Sky Chefs, Gate Gourmet and Flying Food Group, provide meals to most of the big airlines such as Delta, Continental, United, etc.   The three caterers operate 91 kitchens that provide more than 100 million meals annually to U.S. and foreign airlines at U.S. airports.

What did FDA report reveal about health and sanitation violations?
The FDA found that catering services:

  • store food at improper temperatures,
  • use unclean equipment
  • employ workers who practice poor hygiene.
  • there were cockroaches, flies, mice and other signs of inadequate pest control.

Wow! Aren’t these the most basic requirement to run a catering service, including restaurants?  It was really surprising for me to findout that catering services of one of the most sophisticated industry, airlines, do not have measure to control pests. 

What was the reaction of catering services to these violations?
All three caterers say “they work hard to ensure food is safe. And airlines say they monitor the food that goes onto their planes.”  Unclean equipment, unhygienic practice by workers and pests, what safety measures are these companies taking to ensure food is safe.  Will they eat food at home, if they see cockroach in their soup?

  • Spokeswoman for Duyne LSG Sky...

    Chefs, Beth Van said “comprehensive and multilayered quality-control standards in place to ensure our customers receive safe, healthy and high-quality food.”
  • Norbert van den Berg of Gate Gourmet says findings are taken “very seriously” and the company uses an independent auditor for quality assurance.
  • Glenn Caulkins of Flying Food Group says his company’s facilities are independently audited for quality assurance.
  • JetBlue spokesman Bryan Baldwin says the airline requires caterers to provide results of FDA inspections and does its own “impromptu” visits to their facilities.

Roy Costa, a consultant and public health sanitarian said that “In spite of best efforts by the FDA and industry, the situation with in-flight catered foods is disturbing, getting worse and now poses a real risk of illness and injury to tens of thousands of airline passengers on a daily basis.”

If you want more details, I would recommend you to go through the report from USA Today:  FDA inspectors found live roaches.  It is apparent that the sanitary problem is severe and if not controlled  can lead to an epidemic breakdown like swine flu.  Costa, who volunteered to review the FDA reports obtained by USA TODAY, further said that “Conditions open the door to food-poisoning outbreaks.”

I am already not a big fan of peanuts provided by the airline industry, but would like airline to provide food, especially during longer flights like international travel.  Well, I am thinking of taking food from home or grab it from the airport, rather than becoming a victim of food poisoning due to the sanitary issues with airline catering services.

Healthy Travelling!!

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