Another airline is working with public officials on an investigation into whether its food or beverages have made passengers sick. This time its Frontier Airlines and company officials have suggested a water fountain in the Cleveland airport could be responsible for reported illnesses.

City officials, however, say the water is not likely behind the illnesses. As a precaution, though, officials at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) immediately closed and sanitized all of the water fountains of Concourse A.   

“Based on our expertise, waterborne illnesses generally have a longer incubation period than what we saw in this instance. Also, Cleveland Water has no known water safety issues in the vicinity of CLE, but is collecting additional street-level samples to verify,” according to a statement posted Jan. 2 on the city’s website.

“CLE airport staff and CDPH (Cleveland Department of Public Health) are testing fountains and will send water samples to an external Ohio EPA-certified lab for evaluation.”

Frontier Airlines notified airport officials on New Year’s Day that some passengers had reported becoming sick on a flight from Cleveland to Tampa. As of Wednesday, six passengers had reported illnesses. Anyone who was on a Frontier flight from Cleveland to Tampa on Jan. 1 and became ill is asked to contact the Cleveland health department.

Outbreak investigators are interviewing the Frontier passengers in an attempt to determine whether they all drank from the same water fountain or had food or beverages from any other common source in the airport. The public health officials are also asking the passengers about their activities before arriving at the airport. City officials reported more than 11,000 passengers traveled through CLE on New Year’s Day.

Other problems at other airlines
In the past two years, food safety issues hit airports in Denver, Los Angeles, and Newark, NJ. They involved Delta, United, American, Virgin Australia airlines. Except for the Newark incident in August 2018 — when Listeria was found in a United Airlines’ kitchen cooler — the other problems were related to the Gate Gourmet catering company.

In November of 2017 Gate Gourmet found Listeria in its Los Angeles kitchen at LAX airport, and several airlines including American, Delta and Virgin Australia suspended their use of the air catering service until the problem could be resolved.

The Food and Drug Administration documented problems with the Gate Gourmet Inc. airline catering facility in Erlanger, KY. In a March 2018 warning letter the agency reported the Kentucky site has been downgraded from approved to provisional. 

The warning letter cited numerous violations, including evidence of cockroach infestation, standing water and buildup of dirt and food debris on equipment and through out the plant.

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