Lots of people are flying somewhere and back this extended weekend.   We are eating better if we are not among them.

Here’s what we know…

airline-food3-featured.jpgFood Safety News reported last Dec. 23 about live and dead roaches inside a flight kitchen run by LSG Sky Chefs at Denver International Airport.   The kitchen at Denver International also tested positive for Listeria.

We thought at the time our story would get more attention.

Denver International is one of the top five airports in the U.S.  LSG Sky Chefs makes 405 million meals a year for the 300 airlines it serves around the world.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had dropped the Denver facility’s “approved status.”

A story about possible food poisoning in the international skies at Christmas should get some attention, we thought.  The only thing it was lacking was a role for Bruce Willis.

But nobody picked up on it until well after the holidays when the Denver media gave it a quick once-over.

Then earlier this summer, we got an inquiry from USA Today’s Gary Stoller.  He thought that December’s inspection report at Denver International might just be the tip of the iceberg.  We were glad to give him what help we could and send him off.

Among national media, USA Today has distinguished itself by doing some serious enterprise reporting involving food safety.  Most of what the public knows about the National School Lunch Program, for example, has come from the pages of USA Today.  

Were it not for USA Today, the public would not know that the same Chino, CA slaughterhouse that PETA targeted for undercover videos of the most disgusting kind of animal abuse was also a favorite USDA beef supplier for the school lunch program.

And this week, thanks to Stoller’s legwork, we found out that airline food safety might be something of an oxymoron.

In USA Today, Stoller reported on some of what he has learned as he has been getting his hands on inspection reports for the 91 flight kitchens operated by LSG, Gate Gourmet, and Flying Food Group.

With the files for 46 facilities in hand, USA Today reported that 27 had violations or objectionable practices.  At Minneapolis, FDA inspectors found live rodents complete with feces and nesting materials.   

At Dulles International outside Washington D.C., Gate Gourmet was not keeping such dishes as sea bass and pastrami and cheese sandwiches hot enough. In San Diego, Gate Gourmet was cooking food to airline specifications and not following food safety guidelines.

Roy Costa, a food safety expert and contributor to Food Safety News, told USA Today that the airlines–who are responsible for the safety of their passengers–have a serious supplier control problem.

Roy, as usual, has it right.  If the airlines did their job, these flight kitchens would be ship shape in no time at all.

But that isn’t happening, is it?