Self-proclaimed as “Central Ohio’s premiere catering service,” Tufo’s To Go is also an airline catering facility, but it has been told to make food-safety improvements.

In an April 21 warning letter, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) informed Tufo’s that its classification as an airline catering facility has been downgraded to “Provisional” status from “Approved.”

“If the conditions of food production and operation of the facility are not improved and verified by FDA by the time of the next inspection, then your facility will be classified as “Use Prohibited” or “Not Approved,” the FDA warning letter says.

Airlines may not obtain their food from a “Use Prohibited” or “Not Approved” source.

The name of the airline or airlines obtaining catering services from Tufo’s was not disclosed.   The catering service is located in Pataskala, OH outside of Columbus, where Skybus Airlines was based until going out of business in 2008.

FDA inspected Tufo’s between Dec.29, 2010 and Jan. 18, 2011

“This comprehensive inspection was conducted under the authority of the Public Health Service Act (PHS Act) to determine your compliance with applicable sections of the Interstate Conveyance Sanitation regulations (21 CFR Part 1250),” the letter said.  “These regulations were promulgated pursuant to Section 361 of the PHS Act (42 USC § 264). Regulations promulgated under this section are necessary to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases.”

The inspections found a number of “significant violations” including:

— The vegetable preparation sink was plumbed directly into the sewage drainpipe without backflow prevention.

— The hand wash sink’s drainpipe was plumbed directly into the three-compartment sink. FDA said to prevent the deposit of effluent into another sink, the hand wash sink should instead be plumbed into a sewage drainpipe with backflow prevention.

— The three-compartment sink was plumbed directly into the sewage drainpipe without backflow prevention.

— The hot water heater overflow pipe emptied directly into the vegetable preparation sink. FDA said the overflow pipe should empty into a floor drain to prevent potential hot water heater sediments from being deposited into the vegetable prep sink.

— The shut-off valve on an overhead water supply line connected to the hot water heater was leaking. The leakage was being routed via a garden hose to the three-compartment sink. The end of the garden hose was below the sink’s flood rim.

— The final rinse temperature gauge on the dish washing machine was not operational.

— An open bucket of sanitizer that exceeded 200 parts per million (ppm) was sitting on a table where ready-to-eat meals were being prepared.

— An employee was observed using a sanitizer on food contact surfaces that was stronger than the manufacturer’s stated instructions of 200 ppm. One of those surfaces — a  cutting board — had ready-to-eat food sitting on part of it while it was cleaned with the sanitizer.

— An employee was observed using sanitizer that exceeded 200 ppm and then resumed preparing food without washing his hands.

–The ceiling over the prep sink was peeling and cracking. FDA observed food being prepared in this sink.

— The floor around the dish machine, three-compartment sink, hand sink and ice machine was dirty and standing water was observed.

FDA said it is the airline catering service’s responsibility to comply with the regulations “at this facility, and any other facilities involving interstate travel and sanitation” under its control. 

The “provisional” classification is good for 30 days, at which time the catering service must be re-inspected.  FDA urged the company to take prompt action to correct all the violations listed in the letter.

Tufo To Go’s  non-airline business includes receptions, cocktail parties, retirements, banquets, showers and business meetings