Stop reading now if you've just eaten. The Food and Drug Association (FDA) has uncovered unsanitary conditions at three airline catering companies, including two of the world's biggest outfits, LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet.
Here are the grisly details, according to USA Today: "The FDA reports say many facilities store food at improper temperatures, use unclean equipment and employ workers who practice poor hygiene. At some, there were cockroaches, flies, mice and other signs of inadequate pest control."
The caterers combine to provide onboard meals for nearly all the major domestic carriers, including Delta, American, United, US Airways, and Continental, as well as several international airlines.
Roy Costa, a consultant and public health sanitarian, tells USA Today, "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." He says the conditions found in these kitchens increase the risk of food-borne illness.
All three companies involved responded with similar statements. LSG Sky Chefs spokeswoman Beth Van Duyne told USA Today that her company has "comprehensive and multilayered quality-control standards in place to ensure our customers receive safe, healthy and high-quality food."
If you're thinking that this statement doesn't exactly jibe with the FDA's findings, you're not alone.
I will say this: At least most meals aren't free anymore, because it means fewer people are eating them. But in this era of $6 to $10 in-flight meals, I find this news, well, hard to swallow.
In all seriousness, I've never purchased an in-flight meal, which means I haven't eaten an in-flight meal in years, save for a handful of international flights. And after hearing about these nasty kitchens, I'm all the more inclined to keep making a sandwich at home and bringing it onboard.
Readers, what do you think? Will you swear off airline food?