LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A report issued Wednesday by a union that represents airline food workers is raising doubts about the safety of passengers’ food on flights at Los Angeles International Airport.
The “What’s On Your Tray Table?” report (PDF) from Unite Here found dirty employee bathrooms, clutter in the food storage area and failure to properly maintain machines used to control bacteria in two kitchens managed by Flying Food Group (FFG), which provides food to several airlines at LAX.
Unite Here says they surveyed 60 FFG employees, which works out to 10 percent of the company’s work force.
“More than 40 percent of workers surveyed say that they report insects or rodents being in the kitchens,” according to Leigh Shelton of Unite Here. “Seventy percent of workers also report that they have to come to work sick.”
Four workers told those conducting the survey that food preparation dates are regularly changed, while others claimed dirty or spoiled food is used to prepare airline meals.
“Last year, a co-worker found a cockroach in her salad from the cafeteria , and the lettuce sometimes is a dark color,” one kitchen worker reported. “Two months ago, in my department we found two mice….Also, there are many mosquitos and other insects in the room where I work.”
Another 25 percent of those surveyed said hand-washing soap is sometimes unavailable, posing a potential hazard for 70 percent of respondents who reported coming to work sick, the survey found.
The findings by an FDA inspector were the result of a routine visit earlier this year to food service facilities at LAX, The New York Times reported.
Flying Food Group prepares meals for some of the world’s largest airlines, including Air France and British Airways, according to The Times.
In a statement quoted by The Times, Flying Food disputed the allegations, saying employees had not filed any complaints about conditions at the company’s facilities in L.A. and that Unite Here was simply using the report in an attempt to “disrupt” business.
Regardless of any political motivations, CBS News Travel Expert Peter Greenberg told KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO the report clearly shows changes need to be made.
“Here’s the problem: the same standards that are applied at restaurants should be applied at airports,” Greenberg said.
He went to use the example of public health standards that are used for such common items as a produce scale at a supermarket.
“When you go to a supermarket and buy groceries in, let’s say, fruit or produce, you put it on a scale, you weigh it,” he said. “That’s inspected by the city. How often are they inspecting those scales at the airport for the airlines that are weighing your bags telling you your overweight?”
A 2012 survey by Travel + Leisure magazine ranked LAX as the second-worst airport in the U.S. behind only New York’s La Guardia Airport. In that survey, LAX ranked 21st out of 22 major U.S. airports in terminal cleanliness.