Except on the longest flights and/or in business class, airline meals are largely a thing of the past. Yet, a new report from ABC’s investigative newsmagazine 20/20 suggests we should count our blessings over the decision of carriers to suspend in-air food service.
Via a Freedom of Information Act request, the producers of the program obtained Food and Drug Administration health violation records. What they discovered may make you sick to read about—and could make you sicker if you ingested the food described.
The reports revealed “significant” problems at the facilities where airline food is prepared. Inspections of these facilities found them crawling with mice, roaches, and ants, and food preparation areas swarming with flies. All told, FDA inspectors handed out more than 1,500 violations in the space of four years—a far higher rate of infestation than in other industry the agency inspects.
Among the more flagrant offenders was industry giant LSG Sky Chefs, which does food prep for several airlines. According to the FDA records, inspectors observed ants crawling over discarded food, flies both dead and alive, and roaches throughout the company’s food preparation facilities.
LSG responded to 20/20 with a statement indicating that it cleaned up its act after receiving an FDA warning letter. “Food safety and quality,” the statement noted, “are out number one priority.”
Another company cited was Gate Gourmet, whose plant was said to be crawling with gnats “too numerous to count,” as well as cockroaches. The FDA also found food left unrefrigerated at Gate Gourmet and utensils stacked on dirty racks.
At other installations covered in the report, inspectors came across filthy cooking areas, old and moldy products, and evidence that employees failed to wash their hands before getting to work.
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