After finding evidence of rodents inside a Delta Airlines aircraft at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned the world’s largest air carrier to take steps to prevent future infestations.


FDA inspects aircraft under the Public Health Services Act, determining compliance with Interstate Conveyance Sanitation regulations to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable disease.

Under the regulations, aircraft where food is prepared, served, or stored must be maintained to be clean and free from flies, rodents, and other vermin.

In an April 13 warning letter to Delta CEO Richard H. Anderson, FDA said that during inspections in Atlanta from Jan. 26 to Feb. 2, “significant violations,” including rodent excreta pellets and urine stains, were found inside a plane.

There are 728 aircraft in Delta’s fleet. While the average aircraft age, as of Sept. 30, 2010, was 14.9 years, the carrier’s DC-9s average 33 years of age, and its MD-88s average 20.2 years of age.  FDA did not disclose the type of aircraft said to be infested by rodents.

Here’s what the agency’s investigator reported finding:

— Approximately 8-11 rodent excreta pellets above the right door panel in the forward galley (G1) where flight personnel prepare food.

— Approximately 10-20 rodent excreta pullets above left door panel in the forward galley (G1) where flight personnel prepare food.

— Approximately 9-15 rodent excreta pellets on the right aisle of the aircraft over seats C-3–C-7.

— Rodent excreta pellets (too numerous to count) in three areas in ceiling panels located in the middle cross over gallery (G2) … directly over places where food and drinks are stored in the aircraft.

— Mammalian urine in six areas on ceiling panels over the middle cross over gallery (G2).

“Our laboratory analysis of samples collected during the inspection confirmed the presence of rodent excreta pellets and rodent urine stains in the aircraft,” the warning letter to Delta said.

The letter continued, saying, “We acknowledge your response, sent via email on Jan. 28, 2011, outlining actions taken by Delta to exterminate the rodent infestation observed by our investigator on aircraft  # (not disclosed). However, the corrective actions identified in these responses do not include actions your firm is taking to prevent future rodent infestations.”

FDA said a recurrence would be likely unless adequate preventive measures are taken.

Anderson was told to respond to FDA’s Atlanta compliance officer within 15 working days.

Delta Airlines hauls more than 160 million passengers a year. It serves 239 cities in the United States, and 108 foreign airports.