Sun Country Airlines, a leisure carrier based in Mendota Heights, MN, just got a lesson in the form of a warning letter from FDA on keeping food safe with proper temperatures.

A Sun Country conveyance facility located at Terminal 2 in San Diego was subjected to a comprehensive inspection by FDA from June 17-21, and significant violations of the Public Health Service Act were found.

In the Aug. 18 warning letter, FDA said the air carrier must keep all perishable food or drink below 50 degrees, except when being prepared or kept for hot serving.

“However, perishable food onboard you air conveyance lacked temperature controls necessary for food safety,” the letter said. “Specifically, on two separate occasions, foods that were intended for service to passengers on a return flight from San Diego, CA to Minneapolis, MN were held at an unsuitable temperature and were allowed to remain at an elevated temperature for an extended period of time during the outbound flight from Minneapolis to San Diego and the layover in San Diego.”

FDA said the flight time was three hours and 45 minutes with a layover of about 45 minutes.  “At a minimum, therefore, these foods were held at unsuitable temperatures for more than four hours on each occasion before being served to passengers,” FDA added.

Entries, which should have been stored under dry ice or in some other form of refrigeration, were as high as 74 degrees on June 17, and as high as 85 degrees on June 18.  High food temperatures can lead to the growth of dangerous pathogens.

FDA inspectors also found that Sun Country flight attendants were working without ice scoops on the June 17 flight to San Diego from Minneapolis.

Sun Country Airlines choose not to provide Food Safety News with any comment.

The information collected for FDA Form 483 inspection report shows Sun Country heating and serving cheese pizzas, cheeseburgers, and steak and potato entries to its customers.  

Food safety is not the only problem at Sun Country Airlines, which is owned by MN Airlines LLC.   The U.S. Department of Transportation just fined the company $40,000 for airline advertising violations.

It was advertising an $89 fare on its website that looked like it applied to three cities, but in fact only was good for one.   In addition, information hidden behind an asterisk was not property displayed.

The airline blamed a new employee for those errors.

Sun Country, which has been in and out bankruptcy, was rumored to be an acquisition target of Southwest Airlines before it bought the larger Trans Air.

The airline provides service to smaller Midwest airports like Fargo, ND and La Crosse, WS to leisure destinations like Las Vegas and Laughlin, NV.  Sun Country also has provided charter service to the U.S. military, ferrying troops back and forth to the Mideast.  

Former Braniff International Airline pilots and flight attendants started Sun Country 27 years ago.