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Virgin, Delta join American; nix Gate Gourmet catering at LAX

Two more airlines have suspended use of the Gate Gourmet flight catering kitchen at Los Angeles International Airport, two weeks after American Airlines said it would stop using the company’s service at the airport because bacteria was found in its facility.

Virgin Australia and Delta Air Lines have both ceased using Gate Gourmet at LAX. American Airlines stopped using Gate Gourmet’s catering services after 3 a.m. on Nov. 1, citing Listeria monocytogenes test results.

Gate Gourmet says its LAX kitchen is operating without restrictions and complying with all local and federal regulations. Gate Gourmet’s claims the “issue” involves only non-food contact areas at its LAX catering kitchen. The airline catering company says it has responded with remedial cleaning protocols and comprehensive testing.

State and local health agencies and the U.S.Food and Drug Administration have not said anything about Gate Gourmet’s status at LAX or just how long ago the first positive tests for Listeria occurred.

Gate Gourmet services airlines at LAX with food, beverages and related support.

Listeria is an especially challenging bacteria for airline passengers. It can take up to 70 days after exposure for symptoms to develop. That’s a long time period for people to remember all the food they consumed, let alone what flight kitchens served them at various airports.

Contaminated food spreads most listeria. The federal Centers for Disease Control reports there are about 1,600 cases of listeriosis each year in the U.S. with most involving pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.

Listeriosis symptoms include fever, stiff neck, muscle aches and mental confusion. Pregnant women may experience flu-like symptoms.

American Airlines announced its withdrawal from Gate Gourmet’s in-flight food services two weeks ago through a statement by the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. AA said it took action “out of an abundance of caution.” The airline said it has no information that Gate Gourmet’s Listeria problem involves any non-LAX locations, which AA continues to use.

Virgin America began telling passenger last week that its food services out of LAX would be limited and started offering vouchers to customers. Delta Airlines said it had “temporarily adjusted catering operations ” to help Gate Gourmet with “more aggressive” food safety actions.

Another flight catering company, Journey Cuisine in Denver, last month reported a similar problem. It caused United Airlines flights through Denver International Airport to switch to other suppliers.

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