A spokesperson from United Airlines recently announced that Listeria bacteria was found inside a kitchen cooler in one of the airline’s facilities at Newark Liberty International Airport.

United Airlines told News 12 in New Jersey they have not detected listeria “in any food-contact surface or any food served to our customers or employees in our airports or on our aircraft.”

The spokesperson told the news station that the cooler has been isolated and the area has been cleaned, sanitized “and contained.”

Not the first time
Local health department inspections typically do not include the collection of environmental samples from surfaces to determine if pathogens are present in a facility unless there is an outbreak. United Airlines likely found the Listeria problem through its own environmental testing.

It’s not known if the Newark Liberty International Airport United Airlines facility reported its Listeria problem to the Food and Drug Administration, either through the Newark district office or the agency’s reportable incidents portal. The fact that FDA has not issued a warning letter to the facility may mean the agency is satisfied with United Airline’s remediation.

Among foodborne diseases, Listeria is the one that might be most problematic for airline passengers. It can take up to 70 days after exposure before the appearance of any symptoms, leaving most people with few specific memories about what might be making them sick.

Pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system are especially susceptible. Symptoms that do appear include fever, stiff neck, muscle aches, and mental confusion. Pregnant women may experience flu-like reactions. Listeria is also well known for causing miscarriages and stillbirths.

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