Traces of the bacteria listeria, which can cause fatal food poisoning in vulnerable people, was found in the kitchen of a catering facility at LAX. This prompted American Airlines’ decision to stop using Gate Gourmet catering, at least temporarily.
Listeria was found around drains and on the floors but not on surfaces that come into contact with food. Even so, American Airlines spokeswoman Katie Cody said, “Out of an abundance of caution, we made the decision because we felt it was the right thing to do.” Cody said that the airline routinely conducts food safety inspections at all facilities and this is the first time the deadly pathogen was found.
Out of about 1,600 people who get sick with food poisoning from listeria each year, approximately 260 die from listeriosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Those most vulnerable to infection include the elderly, newborn children and pregnant women. No illnesses stemming from LAX have been reported.
The catering company Gate Gourmet operates at numerous airports all around the U.S. but will take a hiatus from its work for American Airlines at Los Angeles International Airport for a week or more. A Gate Gourmet spokesperson told online news source The Street, who broke the news of the listeria, that American Airlines is the only carrier to halt deliveries from LA so far. National Health Chair for the American Association of Professional Flight Attendants, Kim Coats Tuck said the caterer will continue to provide some snacks, ice and drinks for American at LAX but will not serve prepared meals.
Gate Gourmet issued a statement saying, “As part of routine inspections, we identified traces of listeria in non-food contact areas, primarily floor drains, at our LAX unit. Immediately and in accordance with our protocols, all floor drains and surrounding areas were immediately and aggressively treated. Independent food safety agencies have confirmed that our unit adheres to food safety regulations and we are not aware of any instance where passengers are put at risk. We reaffirm our commitment to food safety and the safety of the travelling public. Our unit is open for business and we continue to cater our other customers.”
The catering disruption could inconvenience a large number of passengers, especially those traveling on long trips who count on the convenience of airline meals. LAX is a major American Airlines hub that has more than 200 departures daily.