Summer Travel: How safe is food and drink on the airplane? - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken News, Weather, Sports

WNCN Investigates

Summer Travel: How safe is food and drink on the airplane?

Posted: Updated:
MORRISVILLE, N.C. -

Last year, more than 9 million passengers traveled through Raleigh-Durham International Airport. Chances are you were one of them.

And chances are you had a free drink or even a meal on board. But how safe is the food and drink at 30,000 feet?

It depends.

The meals are prepared at LSG Sky Chefs, a catering facility on the airport grounds. They serve a number of airlines at RDU, packing thousands of meals and countless drinks onto domestic and international flights daily.

Its hard to find passengers who rave about the meals.

"Eh ...   it's mediocre," said one man in RDU's terminal.

Others won't even touch em.

"[I only eat] what's in the sealed bags," said another woman.

She may not have read the FDA inspection reports, but WNCN Investigates did.

The FDA is who inspects airline catering facilities. Through the Freedom Of Information Act, WNCN obtained some of their reports.

Atlanta is Delta's biggest hub, and Delta is one of RDU's largest carriers -- funneling hundreds and sometimes thousands of passengers a day to the world's busiest airport. Those passengers connect onto longer haul flights, often catered by Gate Gourmet, the major catering facility there.

WNCN obtained FDA records from one of the most recent inspections in November 2012.

Inspectors found: Pigeons flying over the ovens; prepared food trays sitting on shelves coated with sticky brown liquid; an employee wiping down food carts with a napkin she just used to wipe the floor; an employee spray washing the floors splashed the dirty water into filled food carts; and employees were not washing their hands properly.

"Improper hand-washing, temperature abuse of foods, individuals not practicing good hygiene. That's what really makes food unsafe," said N.C. State University food safety expert Dr. Ben Chapman.

In response, Gate Gourmet said:  

"Gate Gourmet produces and serves more than 250 million meals a year for the traveling public, all while maintaining a food safety record that's among the best in the overall food service industry. We take our responsibility very seriously and have multi-layered quality control measures in place to ensure food safety."

So how does LSG Sky Chefs stack up at RDU?

The FDA provided WNCN with the most recent inspection form available, from April 2012.

Inspectors found what the FDA calls "significant deficiencies," including: Soil and grease buildup on the commercial can opener blade; and cutting boards scarred beyond the ability to be properly cleaned or sanitized to prevent cross contamination.

The FDA says Sky Chefs promptly corrected the problems, and they passed the inspection.

LSG Sky Chefs told WNCN, "We work closely with FDA inspectors and take immediate action [often during the inspection] to address any issues."

So how is a flyer to know the meal and drinks being served were handled properly?

"It is all about trust, when it comes to food safety, because often you don't know what the handling practices were," said Chapman.

Chapman's advice: eat at your own risk. And hope for the best.

RELATED LINKS

Jonathan Carlson

Jonathan is an investigative reporter and anchor with over a decade of experience. Jonathan has broken stories that have resulted in local and statewide change. Contact our Investigative Team anytime HERE. More>>

  • PoliticsMore>>

  • Lawmakers in last-minute moves over NC budget

    Lawmakers in last-minute moves over NC budget

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 11:27 PM EDT2014-07-31 03:27:50 GMT
    File PhotoFile Photo
    Legislative budget-writers are toiling to finalize an annual spending plan for North Carolina government four days after announcing a deal and a day after leading lawmakers described its main points.Senate budget-writer Sen. Harry Brown says a finalized document won't be done until late Wednesday.
    Legislative budget-writers are toiling to finalize an annual spending plan for North Carolina government four days after announcing a deal and a day after leading lawmakers described its main points.Senate budget-writer Sen. Harry Brown says a finalized document won't be done until late Wednesday.
  • NC weighs giving upfront money for promised jobs

    NC weighs giving upfront money for promised jobs

    North Carolina lawmakers are considering breaking with a generation of state job-hunting efforts and giving corporations upfront money to move.
    North Carolina lawmakers are considering breaking with a generation of state job-hunting efforts and giving corporations upfront money to move.
  • NC Senate signs off on farm bill

    NC Senate signs off on farm bill

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 6:54 PM EDT2014-07-30 22:54:19 GMT
    File PhotoFile Photo
    The Senate voted Wednesday to agree to a bill that would shield DENR from disclosing complaints and investigations on farms.
    The Senate voted Wednesday to agree to a bill that would shield DENR from disclosing complaints and investigations on farms.
  • U.S.More>>

  • Hundreds of teens have died playing this old, but popular game

    Hundreds of teens have died playing this old but popular game

    Thursday, July 31 2014 12:08 AM EDT2014-07-31 04:08:39 GMT
    It's troubling and alarming an old trend is resurfacing, teens across the country are passing out to get high, and the consequences could be deadly. It begins with rapid breathing, then a sudden gasp
    It's troubling and alarming an old trend is resurfacing, teens across the country are passing out to get high, and the consequences could be deadly.
  • House approves VA health care overhaul

    House approves VA health care overhaul

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 8:57 PM EDT2014-07-31 00:57:37 GMT
    With a new Veterans Affairs secretary in place and an August recess looming, Congress is moving quickly to approve a compromise bill to refurbish the VA and improve veterans' health care.
    The House overwhelmingly approved a landmark bill Wednesday to help veterans avoid long waits for health care that have plagued the Veterans Affairs Department for years.
  • Suing Obama: GOP-led House gives the go-ahead

    Suing Obama: GOP-led House gives the go-ahead

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 7:47 PM EDT2014-07-30 23:47:20 GMT
    Republicans are ready to muscle legislation through the House authorizing an election-year lawsuit against President Barack Obama that accuses him of exceeding his powers in enforcing his health care law.
    A sharply divided House approved a Republican plan Wednesday to launch a campaign-season lawsuit against President Barack Obama, accusing him of exceeding the bounds of his constitutional authority. Obama and other...
Powered by WorldNow

1336 Augusta West Parkway
Augusta, GA 30909

Telephone: 706.722.6664
Email: talkback6@wjbf.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.