The LSG SkyChefs catering facility at Denver International Airport (DIA) has lost its “approved status” after U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspections found food safety problems that include positive test results for the deadly Listeria pathogen.

LSG continues to serve its customers at DIA, which will be used by one million travelers during the current holiday season, under the “provisional status” it was assigned by in an FDA “Warning Letter” issued Dec. 10th and made public yesterday.

chef-kitchen.jpgFDA inspectors in September and October visited the airline kitchen, taking samples from various locations inside the processing facility.

“Our FDA laboratory analyses of these environmental samples (FDA Sample #531908) revealed that three swab sub samples collected from floor locations in the hot kitchen area were found positive for Listeria monocytogenes,” wrote H. Thomas Warwick, Jr., FDA’s Denver District Director.

LSG’s Beth Van Duyne told Food Safety News those positive samples essentially came from drains, and that no positive results were returned from any food or food preparation surface.  She says the company began deep cleaning with bleaches as soon as it got the inspection report.

As the worlds dominate airline-catering business, Van Duyne says LSG is taking the FDA action very seriously and is looking forward to a re-inspection in early January.  It has a lot riding on the re-inspection.  It must either win back “approved” status or it will fall to “Use Prohibited” or “Not Approved.”

Airlines may not obtain their food from a “Use Prohibited” or “Not Approved” source, according to Director Warwick.

LSG’s problems at DIA extend beyond swab samples testing positive for Listeria.  The flight kitchen facility is located in an LSG building that is one of DIA’s original ground lease tenants, according to an airport spokesman.

The LSG on East 75th Avenue is believed to be about as old as DIA, which recently celebrated its first decade of service.  Yet FDA investigators “observed numerous live roaches, dead roaches, and other insects, as well as food, and other debris, in various locations…”

Roaches were found in places like the cart wash area, and the silverware area as well as in the hot kitchen and dish washing machine area.  There were gaps under the garbage room, receiving dock and outbound dock doors, which are openings for pests.

FDA also did not like the way LSG was stacking wet containers as it promotes bacteria growth.

None of DIA’s top three carriers are LSG customers.   United Airlines, the biggest airline in the Mile High City, uses a competitor, and Southwest Airlines supplies its own scanty food items to its customers.  And carry-on items are about all there is on Denver-based Frontier Airlines.

As the fourth largest U.S. airport, many other carriers use DIA.

Van Duyne says as far as she can tell, this is the first time LSG has ever lost its “approved status” at any of the airports it serves in the U.S.  She says the company is making it a top priority to get back to that status.