We here at Fly&Dine know (perhaps better than most) that food on airplanes is a touchy subject. Passengers complain about the quality — or lack thereof — on a regular basis. Airlines do their best, but with massive restrictions and increasing pressure on their bottom lines, spending money on top notch meals isn’t a huge priority, especially as more international airlines slash fares thanks to government subsidies. At the end of the day, we wind up with low-cost food that doesn’t taste great but at least we can assume it’s perfectly safe and edible… until now.
A report came out this month that shines a light on one airline catering company at LAX that may be violating all kinds of health codes and serving food that is possibly tainted with rodents and insects. Gross, huh? I’m using all kinds of qualifiers here (may be, possibly, etc.) because the report comes from Unite Here!, a union representing the employees. They have a major interest in unveiling these violations because it could help them bargain for a more beneficial contract for the workers they represent. That said, this report is rather damning. I’ll believe it 100% when an independent commission verifies it, but right now we can all read along with our mouths open (or, to be safer, closed) about the conditions in which our in-flight food is prepared.
The catering company in question is Flying Food Group (FFG), an international caterer that works with over 70 major airlines around the world. The New York Times reports that FFG has been flagged repeatedly for unsanitary kitchens before and now a federal inspector has identified major problems after a January visit. The information in the Unite Here report confirms all of this.
Without breaking down the whole report, here are some key facts from the report that may make you think twice about that cardboard container of tortellini:
- More than half of the 60 FFG workers polled reported seeing evidence of rodents and/or insects in the facilities.
- 70% of those polled admitted coming into work sick.
- Four people admitted that changing the dates of when food was prepared is a regular practice.
- Some employees reported that spoiled or dirty food is used in food preparation.
Yikes. That’s NOT what you want to hear. FFG denies all the charges, as admitting to them would seem to be a legal nightmare. Whether or not any of this is true is up to you to decide. The fact that an FDA inspector found malfeasance here is definitely troubling. That said, FDA inspectors find things like this in some of your favorite restaurants on a regular basis. It’s not the end of the world, but it is something to be concerned about.
I’d love to know if anyone has experience with this from their own jobs working in airplane catering. If you do, send in your *anonymous* stories to flyanddine AT gmail DOT com and we’ll report them when we get them right here on Fly&Dine. Your name will never be used and we won’t name airlines either unless you’d like that information to be printed.
How do you feel about this report? Concerned about your next in-flight meal? Let’s have a support group in the comments section.
Full Unite Here! report here.