(CBS) Airline meals are notoriously unappealing, but newly disclosed reports from the FDA suggest they could pose a serious health threat.
The reports, obtained by USA Today via the Freedom of Information Act, say that some kitchens where the meals are prepared use unclean equipment, employ food handlers who practice poor hygiene, and store food at the wrong temperatures.
In addition, some kitchens were littered with dead cockroaches, flies, and rodent feces - and at least one kitchen tested positive for listeria, a bacterium that can cause potentially deadly infections.
Three caterers were named in the reports: LSG Sky Chefs, Gourmet, and Flying Food Group. Collectively, these caterers prepare more than 100 million meals each year, including those served by Delta, American, United, U.S. Airways and Continental.
These conditions provide a welcome mat for the germs that cause food poisoning, said Roy Costa a former Florida state food inspector who reviewed the reports for USA Today. He called the situation "disturbing," saying that "it poses a real risk of illness and injury to tens of thousands of airline passengers on a daily basis."
A spokesperson for Flying Food Group, Ellen Pritsker, told CBSnews via email that the "findings" attributed to the company had been addressed and that it works hard to ensure that food is safe.
The two other caterers did not respond to requests for comment by press time, but they also told USA Today they work hard to ensure food is safe.
Now if they can work on flavor.