Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Airline food horror: roaches, flies, bacteria found in catering kitchens that make most plane meals
If you thought airline food was bad, prepare yourself: it just got a whole lot worse.
Inspectors for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered live roaches, dead roach carcasses "too numerous to count", ants, flies, debris, bacteria, and employees preparing food with their bare hands in numerous catering facilities responsible for preparing a huge chunk of the country's airline meals, USA Today reported.
The stomach-turning inspections were conducted over the last two years at the U.S. facilities of two of the world's biggest airline caterers, LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet, and another large caterer, Flying Food Group.
Combined, the three companies provide more than 100 million meals every year at U.S. airports, serving major carriers like Delta, American, United, US Airways and Continental.
Sickening details from the reports, obtained by USA Today through the Freedom of Information Act, include countless occasions when food prepared for airline meals was exposed to contamination.
In a 2009 inspection of an LSG Sky Chefs' facility in Minneapolis, an FDA inspector "spotted a mouse, rodent nesting materials and rodent feces under a pallet of food and in other areas."
A Connecticut facility of LSG Sky Chef's was issued a warning letter for fish meals "prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions" that may be "injurious to health." The FDA cited concerns that the food could cause botulism, caused by extremely poisonous toxins.
Gate Gourmet was slapped with a warning letter in April 2005 when FDA inspectors found cockroaches and fruit flies in its Honolulu facility, food stored at the wrong temperatures, mold in a refrigerator and "a pink, slimy substance" dripping on kitchen machinery.
Prior to the warning, between 47 and 116 passengers had fallen ill after eating food on 12 flights from Hawaii catered by Gate Gourmet, according to the Hawaii State Department of Health.
Gate Gourmet Vice President Norbert van den Berg says the company has an excellent system to ensure safe food, and that his company's food-safety standards are better than any restaurant. "We can guarantee the safest product out there," he told USA Today.
Glenn Caulkins of Flying Food Group said his company also used an independent auditor to monitor its facilities, and a spokeswoman for LSG Sky Chefs told USA Today that it employs "comprehensive and multilayered quality-control standards...to ensure our customers receive safe, healthy and high-quality food."
(from Meena Hartenstein of the New York Daily News)