FDA Finds Many Airline Catering Facilities to Have Food Safety Violations
It may be a good thing that many airlines are restricting the meals they serve to their passengers. Inspectors from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have cited numerous catering facilities that prepare airline food for suspected health and sanitation violations, according to USA Today.
The government documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, included inspection records for the last two years at three airline catering facilities that operate 91 kitchens and provide more than 100 million meals to US and foreign airlines at US airports. These include LSG Sky Chefs, Gate Gourmet, and Flying Food Group.
The FDA reports for 46 facilities found 27 of them to have suspected food preparation violations including food stored at improper temperatures, unclean equipment, rodent and insect infestation, and workers that do not follow good hygiene practices.
"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," says Roy Costa, a consultant and public health sanitarian.
All three caterers say they work hard to ensure food is safe. LSG Sky Chefs, a group with more than 200 customer service centers in 51 countries, claims to have "comprehensive and multilayered quality-control standards in place to ensure our customers receive safe, healthy and high-quality food," according to a statement by spokeswoman Beth Van Duyne. The company’s website says the caterer has produced about 405 million airline meals for more than 300 airlines worldwide.
Norbert van den Berg, Vice President 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 also says his company's facilities are independently audited for quality assurance and the group has invested a lot of money to ensure food safety.
Airlines also conduct their own unannounced inspections and require caterers to provide government inspection reports.
Mary Ann Dowd of the International Flight Services Association, which represents airlines and caterers, says the inspectors' findings are a concern because the trade group works hard to promote food safety. The group will soon distribute a new edition of food-safety guidelines for caterers and airlines.