Airline Food Might Not Only Taste Bad, It Might Make You Sick

Maybe it’s a good thing that more and more airlines are charging to chow down on their mediocre meals. FDA reports uncovered by USA Today reveals the unappetizing conditions at some of the kitchens that prepare the overpriced grub.

At the Denver kitchen for LSG Sky Chefs, the largest caterer for airline food, inspectors found cockroach carcasses “too numerous to count,” not to mention that the kitchen floor tested positive for everyone’s favorite bacteria, Listeria.

Via the Freedom of Information Act, USA Today requested FDA inspection reports for the kitchens operated by LSG as well as those operated by second-largest caterer Gate Gourmet and another large caterer, Flying Food Group. Together, these three operations run 91 kitchens and prepare over 100 million meals to the airline industry each year.

Of the 46 inspection reports received by USA Today thus far, 27 of them were flagged for violations by the FDA. Among the less-appetizing:

•At the LSG facility in Minneapolis, inspectors found a mouse, rodent nesting materials and rodent feces under a pallet of food and elsewhere in the kitchen.

•Gate Gourmet’s Dulles, VA, facility of Gate Gourmet, was cited for failing to keep shrimp, filet mignon, Chilean sea bass, chicken and vegetables, and pastrami and cheese sandwiches at the proper temperature. And even after the inspector pointed this out to employees, the shrimp and the pastrami and cheese sandwiches were not thrown in the garbage.

Luckily for everyone, airline cost-cutting and higher prices for food are having a positive impact on the quality of the food coming from these kitchens.

Says an FDA rep, who knows to never order the fish dish:

With less ready-to-eat fresh food offered in coach class and substitution with prepackaged, shelf-stable foods, the opportunity for poor preparation, storing foods at improper temperatures and food-handling violations is much lower.

Inspectors find safety flaws where airline food is prepared [USA Today]

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  1. rahntwo says:

    So did you want to fly first class…or roach coach

  2. Eat The Rich -They are fat and succulent says:

    “Gate Gourmet, was cited for failing to keep shrimp, filet mignon, Chilean sea bass, chicken and vegetables, and pastrami and cheese sandwiches at the proper temperature.”

    This is why you fly Coach. The food they serve at the back of the bus may taste like cardboard but at least it won’t kill you.

    Really? Chilean Sea Bass? Filet? What airline is this?

    • smo0 says:

      Probably a trans-atlantic flight. Like BA or VA.

    • Tedicles says:

      They all offer this type of ‘gourmet food’ but tends to be less than….er, appetizing. I normally upgrade my flight to China (since avoiding 16 hrs in coach is worth all the miles I can save in a year) and always eat the ‘filet mignon.’ Is it beef? Maybe, sort of…but certainly the only steak where I use ketchup to mask the taste (or lack thereof). So yes, they may have Chilean sea bass, but it probably won’t look, smell or taste like the actual fish! ;)

    • Urgleglurk says:

      Ask Captain Ouver. He had the fish. ;-)

  3. smo0 says:

    Less food less violations. Whodathunk.

    Otherwise, effin sick, man. I just drink my canned tomato juice and eat my pretzels.

  4. teh_shonz says:

    *GASP* There was bacteria on the floor!

    • 47ka says:

      Listeria comes from rodent urine. So yes, it would be a little bit of a big deal to find that on the floor in significant quantities.

      • 47ka says:

        Nix that; I was thinking of leptospira. Listeria is what makes your lunch meat go bad. So they may have dropped meat on the floor and not cleaned it up.

  5. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Hey, I just got off the phone with British Airways to ask about their long-haul inflight meals. They offer more alternatives than anyone else, 20 different meals (including medical meals), but they are very, very behind the times on their diabetic meal. I’m currently holding my a1c below 6 through a strict low-carb diet. What do they have on their diabetic meal? Bread, potatoes, and pasta! At least it’s sugar-free, so I’m going ahead and ordering it, but I’ll take my own low-carb snacks along just in case.

    On that subject, do any of you fellow non-insulin-dependent diabetics have good suggestions for what to take on a plane? (Not pork rinds, please.)

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      Ben et al., I’d like to send an EECB to British Airways to request they update their diabetic meal. This wouldn’t be a complaint, but a suggestion, but I know their corporate policy is “we try harder than anyone else, isn’t that good enough?”. No, it’s not good enough; there are rueful comments throughout the Internet from diabetics who can’t handle the carbs and honestly didn’t expect a diabetic meal to be so carb-laden. And why should they have? Vegans don’t get animal food, Muslims don’t get pork, but diabetics get foods with a glycemic index of 99? How sensible is that?

  6. ARP says:

    So the fact we’re treated more and more like cattle means that there are fewer opportunities for the airlines to make us sick.

    Yay?

  7. Nogard13 says:

    Mice, roaches, and bacteria are a part of even the strictest, cleanest kitchen. There is nothing you can do to prevent rodents and roaches from entering the grounds as the smells will attract them. What you CAN do is make sure they die and are cleaned up as promptly as possible in order to prevent contamination.

    The food storage issue is something else entirely. That is negligence and the company should be fined heavily for it.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      You know, I read “FDA reports uncovered by USA Today reveals the unappetizing conditions at some of the kitchens that prepare the overpriced grub” as this:

      “FDA reports uncovered by USA Today reveals the unappetizing conditions at some of the KITTENS that prepare the overpriced grub.”

      So maybe if they actually did what I hoped they were already doing (kittens), they could solve their mice issues at the same time.

    • womynist says:

      “Mice, roaches, and bacteria are a part of even the strictest, cleanest kitchen. There is nothing you can do to prevent rodents and roaches from entering the grounds as the smells will attract them…”

      I disagree 100%. Tell that to Chef Gordon Ramsay, and see what kind of response you get.

    • mythago says:

      There’s a big difference between “we saw one roach but the kitchen has tons of roach traps and is all over keeping food sealed so roaches can’t get to it/aren’t attracted to it”, and “cockroaches too numerous to count.”

  8. danmac says:

    This is why I don’t buy airline food…instead, I bring leftover shrimp salad and roasted elephant garlic from home. You’re welcome, world.

  9. pentium4borg says:

    I saw the title in my RSS reader and fully expected a screenshot from Airplane!, and I was not disappointed.

  10. nbs2 says:

    I blame Smise- what? Chelsea didn’t make the list? I guess he is good for something.

  11. wonderkitty now has two dogs says:

    This makes me wonder about the employee conditions at these facilities. Ew.

  12. dreamfish says:

    I never eat the airline food – there’s something that 35000 feet does to food that makes it disgusting in my opinion.

    Consequently, I buy sandwiches and stuff to take on board – though I always do so airside as I don’t know if, say, an egg mayo filling counts as a banned substance that could be hiding explosive material.

    • JuliB says:

      Me too…. I sometimes upgrade to 1st Class (I travel a lot for work) and ALWAYS ask for one of the snack boxes from United Economy. I drink my Diet Coke straight from the can (no chips of ice for me). Seems a lot safer.

    • mythago says:

      I’m told it’s a combination of the preparation and storage process (cook/freeze/store/reheat) and the air quality at that altitude, which just makes even good food taste blah.

  13. Angus99 says:

    Elaine : Just how serious is it Doctor?
    Rumack : Extremely serious. It starts with a slight fever and
    dryness of the throat. When the virus penetrates the
    red blood cells, the victim becomes dizzy begins to
    experience an itchy rash, then the poison goes to work
    on the central nervous system, severe muscle spasms
    followed by the inevitable grueling. At this point,
    the entire digestive system collapses accompanied by
    uncontrollable flatulence ( Oever begins to fart )
    Until finally, the poor bastard is reduced to a
    quivering wasted piece of jelly.

  14. Keres says:

    I noticed that at my local 7-11 stores the sandwiches in the refrigerated section are catered by LSG Sky Chefs. It’s in fine print on the nutrition label.

  15. areaman says:

    At least one good thing can come out of this. It’s a boom for stand up comedians. Get ready to hear a lot of, “Have you heard about this airplane food??” And “What is the deeeeaal with this airplane food???”

    GJ on picture selection.

  16. gman863 says:

    “I haven’t felt this sick since that Ronald Reagan film festival.”

  17. anduin says:

    I haven’t eaten airline food in over a decade, I ALWAYS buy or make a sandwich for flights over 3 hours. I just can’t process that crap they serve on the plane. Only thing I’ll have are pretzels.

  18. SgtBeavis says:

    So you’re saying that airline food is bad, right?

    Thank you Captain Obvious…

  19. jessjj347 says:

    Has anyone ever looked at the inspections for their local restaurants? I forget where the information is, but I found some website that posts it. I looked at the local take out places in my area and they failed repeatedly for this stuff.