Will in-flight meals give me food poisoning?


Travel is always complicated. In our By The Way Concierge column, we take an expert through the travel dilemmas to help you navigate the new normal. Want to see answers to your questions? Submit it here.

I got food poisoning on 3 long haul flights. Should I be skeptical about airline food safety? Are there any foods I should avoid? – Anonymous

This has never happened to me, so I found it difficult to know exactly where I got food poisoning while traveling. It can take 30 minutes or several hours.

So I reached out to Patrick Quade, who runs iwaspoisoned.com, a website where airlines, health professionals, and people can report suspected food poisoning. I wanted to know: Is in-flight food more risky than eating out?

Quade sent a 17-page report on food poisoning allegations filed in 2022 and information about airline lounges that failed health screenings. There have been some compelling claims from passengers that they actually got sick in airlines and airport lounges.

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Like the traveler who reported going to New Zealand from Dallas in November, she “fact” knew it was the in-flight meal that sent her to urgent care after landing in Auckland. time I was traveling. Or someone who told Quade’s site that he became “very ill” from just eating in airport lounges and on board a flight from Atlanta to Las Vegas in May.

“It’s actually not surprising,” Aakash Aggarwal, a gastroenterologist at the Associates of Gastroenterology in New Jersey, told me. It is therapeutic.”

A spokesperson for Gate Group, the world’s largest air catering company, disagreed.

“Given the strict food safety standards and process controls that Gategroup adheres to, it is highly unlikely that you will get sick from consuming meals served on board,” a spokesperson said in an email.

They added that Gate Group chefs and all staff involved in food preparation have undergone food safety training. Gategroup prepares millions of meals annually for its passengers and crew and adheres to food safety and quality standards that “meet or exceed recognized industry and government standards.” In addition, “it undergoes multiple inspections by chefs, company experts, independent food safety consultants, and government agencies such as the USDA. [United States Department of Agriculture] and USFDA [the Food and Drug Administration]”

I toured two airline catering facilities, including a Gategroup outpost in Virginia, and it looked like a very sanitized process. Workers preparing food wore gloves, hairnets, and lab coats. For safety reasons, food is rapidly cooled after cooking to reduce its temperature.

Aggarwal says that after the food is prepared, it has to go through multiple processing stages before it reaches the tray table. “Even the smallest mistake can ruin the final product,” he said.

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Airplane food, like food on the ground, can become contaminated in many ways, including exposure to dirty water, improper handling and cooking. It may not have been heated properly or left for too long. “The chances of something going wrong are multiplied,” Aggarwal says.

While food poisoning on airplanes “inevitably happens,” said Anthony Harris, chief executive and medical officer of HFit Health, an occupational medicine practice, “it’s not a very common problem.” rice field.

My conclusion from our conversation: You’re no more likely to get food poisoning on a flight than anywhere else.

No useful information was available from the CDC (no data on food poisoning as food poisoning is not on the national notifiable disease list) or airlines. Airlines for America trade group spokesperson Hannah Walden said U.S. airlines always prioritize the safety and health of their passengers, including the quality of meals served on board.

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Despite what they know, both doctors I’ve spoken to still eat the in-flight meal, with some conditions. (Fruits that can be peeled are an exception.) Proper heating is more likely to kill harmful bacteria in food and drink. I never drink ice. This is another source of contamination. “That water may not be clean enough,” he said.

A spokeswoman for global risk management firm Crisis24 said their team also recommended consuming only sterile or bottled water and sealed beverages without ice. tells you to follow your mother’s wisdom.

If you think you have food poisoning from an in-flight meal, report it immediately (e.g. drink plenty of water and watch out for more serious symptoms). If you are on board, please tell a flight attendant. If you have already landed, please contact the airline or FDA. An FDA representative told me they take foodborne illness concerns seriously and encourage people to report complaints. Here’s how to submit your report:

The FDA also basically says airlines know they’re being watched. There are federal regulations that airlines must follow to prevent food poisoning, and the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requires U.S. airline caterers and concessionaires to register with the FDA and mandates testing frequency based on risk. increase.

Still not convinced? Following the lead of the late Anthony Bourdain, you can opt out of in-flight meals or pack your own meals and snacks.

Have a By The Way Concierge travel dilemma? Please send from here.

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