Major airlines are exposing their passengers to potential illness by serving them meals prepared in unsanitary and unsafe conditions, according to Food and Drug Administration reports.
For the past two years, FDA inspectors have cited a number of airline-catering facilities for suspected health and sanitary violations after inspecting their kitchens, according to inspection reports obtained by USA Today through the Freedom of Information Act.
The inspections took place at three major airline caterers, LSG Sky Chefs, Gate Gourmet and Flying Food Group. The three caterers operate 91 kitchens providing more than 100 million meals annually to domestic and foreign airlines at U.S. airports, including Delta, American, United, US Airways and Continental.
The FDA reports say many kitchens store food at improper temperatures, use dirty equipment and employ workers who fail to practice good hygiene. At a Denver facility operated by LSG Sky Chefs, FDA inspectors found live roaches and dead roach carcasses "too numerous to count." Inspectors also found ants, flies and debris, and employees handling food with bare hands. Samples from a kitchen floor tested positive for Listeria, a bacteria that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, the elderly, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women.
"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," Roy Costa, a consultant and public health sanitarian, told USA Today.
All three caterers say they work hard to ensure food is safe. And airlines say they monitor the food that goes onto their planes.
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