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Air travel IS dangerous!

Holiday Season! Let’s go to grandma’s for Thanksgiving! Christmas ski trip to Vail, Colorado!!! Israel for Hanukkah! Jidda for Ramadan! NYC for Festivus!
Holiday air travel and foodborne illness hold zero bias against religion or tradition, and neither should you!
Please be advised. According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA),

“* Items purchased after the security checkpoint have been pre-screened and can be taken on the plane.”

That’s good to know, Right? Let’s take a quick tour of 2 airport terminal food establishments;

PHL – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Enter “terminal” in “Facility Name”
Pennsylvania Food Safety Report of
22 Terminal Eating establishments “Out of Compliance” in the past 12 months, 7 with more than 10 violations!

DIA – Denver, Colorado
FLIGHT KITCHEN LSG-SKYCHEF’S
27280 E 75TH AVE
Inspection Date: 1/21/2010
Type of Inspection: Regular

2 critical and 5 non-critical violations.

Inspector Comments:
- – 7-10-2010 02c – Employees observed not handwashing when required, eg. between glove changes, between tasks, upon returning to work station, etc. employee observed using cellular telephone at hot kitchen prep table then returned to foodhandling without washing hands. hands shall be washed as necessary to prevent contamination including after using telephones. 02d – Food prep employee wearing more than a single ring. assembly area employee observed wearing green bracelet on right wrist. foodhandling employees shall wear not more than a single ring. 09b – Food is stored uncovered and/or unprotected from contamination. evaporator condensate lines run over stored ice in ice bins. 13a – Utensils and/or equipment is stored in prohibited areas. in use knives found stored in sanitizer solution. store utensils in clean dry location after wiping with sanitizer cloth of sufficient concentration, in water 135F(57C) or above, 41F(4C) or below, in running drip well. 14a – Plumbing is improperly sized/installed or does not meet the UPC. tilt kettle fill nozzle on hot line with shutoff valve connected downstream of atmospheric vacuum breaker (asse1001.) shutoff valves downstream of atmospheric vacuum breaker may damage backflow preventer. recommend installing ‘gooseneck’ type spring so nozzle hangs at least 1″/ 2.8cm above flood rim of nearest kettle if unrestrained. 14c – Floors are improperly designed or in poor repair. various floor coving seams unsealed such as in dry goods staging area under conveyor racks. 14c – Wall and/or ceiling design is of improper design or in poor repair. various wall panels in hallways peeling from wall. 14c – note: wall/ ceiling issues scheduled for repair. 14i – The restrooms/toilets are not provided with a waste receptacle. women’sbfloor restroom not provided with garbage container.

The USA Today wrote an article back in June, “Inspectors find safety flaws where airline food is prepared”

According to William Heisel of ReportingOnHealth.Org, here are 5 steps YOU can take to better ensure your package of 3 peanuts and a pretzel are indeed safe to eat:

Here are five tips for finding out whether your local airport has a food monster waiting to come out of one of those tiny airplane closets.

1. Find out who may have insight into your airport. Airports each have different management structures and criss-crossing layers of regulators. Often they are run by the county or by an airport authority. The Federal Aviation Administration has ultimate oversight over the airline traffic itself, but there are dozens of federal, state and county agencies that have their hands in some part of an airport’s business.

2. Pay attention to FDA warning letters. Before the USA Today package, media outlets had a field day with a December 2009 warning letter written to LSG Sky Chefs. LSG responded by firing its general manager and head chef at Denver International Airport.

3. Don’t assume that no warning letter means no story. USA Today went well beyond the warning letters because most FDA inspections never result in warning letters or fines. It requested “inspection reports since January 2009 for the two biggest airline caterers, LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet, and a third large caterer, Flying Food Group. Combined, the three companies have 91 kitchens preparing in-flight food for many big U.S. and foreign airlines at U.S. airports.” Why not ask for the same reports going back even further?

4. Talk with your county health department. Even if county health inspectors aren’t involved in the actual food safety on the airlines, they do receive reports of food borne illnesses at local hospitals and clinics. A Los Angeles County health worker provided key information, for example, in an investigation of an international outbreak of salmonella.

5. Tap outside experts. Inspection reports, warning letters and other documents can be so technical that the news may be hidden behind the jargon. There are experts who specialize in food safety at universities across the country, including Michigan State University’s National Food Safety & Toxicology Center.

At least the TSA advises you CAN bring some things through security;

Note: You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening.
Remember! – do not wrap gifts you’re taking on the plane. Security officers may have to unwrap gifts if they need to take a closer look. Please ship wrapped gifts ahead of time or wait until your destination to wrap them.

Long story short: It may not be the fruitcake or oyster-creamed corn casserole that gets you ill this holiday season! As always, Health inspection reports for your favorite eateries, caterers, cruiselines and airport terminal restaurants can be found via the Find Fetid Eats! page, or NYC’s handy new widget!

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