From the barf files: Gross stories

A Rockville dad says his family was forced to sit in vomit on their flight home from Orlando, Fl. Sunday, while reports surfaced that UK nuns “forced children as young as 5 to eat own vomit in exchange for holiday.”

nun.blues.brothersThank you, religion.

Scott Shirley and his family were returning to the D.C. area from Orlando on a United flight when they started to store their bags underneath the seats. Shirley and his wife noticed their bags were wet. When his wife investigated further she discovered vomit. Shirley says he and his family were given two options, to either fly out the next day or stay in those seats. Due to his wife’s job, they had to make it back that night and could not take the next day flight.

Instead of offering to come in and scrub the seats down, the airline offered them blankets.

Nuns allegedly forced children as young as five to ear their own vomit in exchange for a holiday.

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry heard how youngsters at Nazareth House in South Belfast had been promised a holiday if they ate their dinner.

In a statement read to the hearing, a witness said a lamb stew had been made but the meat was off and the nuns forced them to eat it anyway, reports Belfast Live.

And with the 66-year-old ex-Nazareth House resident taking the stand on oath, she was challenged: “You have said the smell was horrendous but the nuns made you eat it otherwise no one would go on holidays.

“You were literally eating your own vomit. Each of the children as young as five were doing this.

“You said it seemed to go on for hours.

“If you didn’t eat your stew, somebody else ate it for you because you all wanted to go on your holidays.

“The congregation has said the food was the best they could provide in the circumstances but they had never made a child eat meat that had gone off and deny anyone would have had to eat their own vomit.”

The inquiry also heard girls were forced to eat in silence and would be slapped with a cane, ruler, spoon or strap for talking.

The witness added: “I was beaten thousands of times. I remember so many punishments.”

‘Insects in room probably in food’ FDA (not) inspecting airline food

As we prepare to flee the summer stank of Brisbane for the Florida coast on the longest commercial flight in the world – Brisbane to Dallas — I’m comforted by my friend Roy Costa’s comments about airline food: it’s a time bomb.

ABC News 20/20 obtained lists of recent health violation records from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Over almost four years, the industry counted more than 1,500 health violations. “Significant” problems were found at a much higher rate than in other industries the FDA inspects, the agency said.

“You put that all together, and you have a time bomb,” said Roy Costa, a food-industry consultant and former health inspector (right, not exactly as shown).

FDA reported evidence of mice on Delta Airlines planes. In a statement, the airline said, “This clearly was an isolated incident and we cooperated with the FDA immediately to resolve it immediately after it was brought to our attention.”

For LSG Sky Chefs, the industry giant that provides food to many airlines, records showed company food facilities infested with ants crawling over discarded food, flies both dead and alive — and roaches all over.

If insects are in the room, they’re probably in the food, Costa said.

“You can’t have insect remains and feces of rodents and dead flies [in these areas],” Costa said.

In a statement, LSG Sky Chefs said, “Our facilities are inspected by several internal and external agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As with any FDA inspection, documented observations are indicated on a 483 form and if observations are cited at our facilities we immediately review and correct. In two cases, the FDA 483 forms led to the issuing of warning letters that were immediately addressed by us to ensure complete FDA compliance.”

At company after company, the FDA saw things like dirty cooking areas, old or moldy products and employees not washing their hands.

And those who fly business or first class and think the curtain protects them from the risk of contaminated food should think again, Costa warned.

“Fancy food isn’t safe food. The bacteria really don’t care.”

Costa addressed the report in his own blog, writing, “The comments by industry are predictable. The “we didn’t do it” philosophy, “head in the sand” approach is apparent, in spite of spin doctor statements. When you get caught with these types of issues, the public is not going to listen to the rhetoric about how great your food safety programs are, quite the contrary. Not one of these spokespersons would admit that their company had a problem or offer solutions, its all about denial. We see this again and again, especially after outbreaks.

“I lay much of the blame at the feet of FDA. This agency has the authority to stop such conditions and they opt time and again to walk away from problems and not take the tough stand that as consumers we expect, except in the most egregious of cases. … Taking a tough stand by inspectors is personally costly, it means confrontation, its perilous to careers and even to ones personal safety. I know this only too well, so I am very grateful to have an opportunity to again stand some ground against the food industry representatives who want to claim all is well in the face of mounting sanitation and health code violations and deceive themselves and the public.

“This type of public confrontation is what we need to dispel the false sense of security the food industry and FDA has created for itself.”

The complete post is available here.

Roy, see you in Florida.


A day in the life of an airline meal

AOL Travel reported on how those airplane flights that still serve food actually go about preparing the food (especially after the lousy inspection reviews compiled by USA Today).

AOL decided to track a single airline meal, from the time it is planned and placed on an airline’s menu to the moment it arrives at the passenger’s seat.

Or, given the bad press for Gate Gourmet and their bad food safety inspections, the story was a standard PR placement. But some elements of interest:

6 p.m. The passenger confirms her seat assignment – 31A – for tomorrow’s flight from Chicago to London. She doesn’t know it, but her meal choice is getting ready for takeoff, too.

She’s going to select grilled chicken breast with orange sesame ginger sauce, served with jasmine white rice and a side of broccoli and carrots. It’s taken a year of development for this dish to make it to the United menu, with three teams of 35 people considering menu items, procuring ingredients, testing and tasting food, and monitoring the quality of the product to the passenger.

Dishes for United’s Flight 958, which departs in 18 hours, are getting washed at Gate Gourmet catering, right on O’Hare property. In a green effort to conserve resources and reduce waste, United doesn’t have a lot of disposable products, according to Stuart Benzal, United’s managing director of onboard global product. Instead, bowls, plates, cups and other utensils are hauled off the aircraft after each flight and sent to one of the 52 kitchens that United uses around the world.

Most kitchens operate 24 hours. "After 10 at night, it goes into equipment processing (mode)" says Benzal, which means cleaning hundreds of plates, bowls, cups, saucers, trays and utensils for the next day.

2 a.m. Alison Hough, director of product planning, planned and ordered chicken for this meal months ago. She knows, based on customer preferences and numbers, how many chickens to order and send to the caterers. Her team ensures that there is fresh, quality product for all the major components of the meal, while smaller detail items like seasonings are covered by the catering kitchen.

5:30 a.m. Chef Danielle Nahal and her team of eight to 12 cooks and food handlers, arrive at Gate Gourmet to begin the day’s preparations. The kitchen will be making lots of meals today for flights to London, Asia, Amsterdam and Paris, so the prep work covers 250-300 servings of each entrée. Though the kitchen is very large, it is also very busy and crowded. Nearly 300 people work on a shift, and the kitchen runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It’s very cold in the kitchens to ensure food safety and food integrity. "You can’t just walk into a kitchen," Benzal says. "You fill out a health form, go to a wash station and wash your hands, use disinfectant, wear a lab coat; your hair and head are covered. There’s even a face mask," he says. "You look more like a surgeon than someone preparing to chop salads." This chilled environment is maintained throughout the production.

6.00 a.m. Twelve hours before flight time, United delivers the final counts and order for meals, including the chicken with orange sesame glaze. Gate Gourmet accepts the order and begins processing to the count specifications. "We’re producing in very large batches," says Chef Nahal. "Sauces are made by the gallon. Vegetables are done by the pound – about 500 pounds [for one day’s meal preparation]."

Executive Chef Gerry Gulli started testing the flavors and sauces for his mandarin chicken nearly a year ago. Since United likes to change out the menus every three months, and needs to have at least two economy meal choices per flight, Chef Gulli is a busy guy. The chefs must also adjust recipes for the diminished taste buds people experience while in flight. "We compensate for that with cooking techniques, using bold flavors and marinades," says Chef Nahal.

9:00 a.m. The grilled chicken breast with orange sesame ginger glaze is being prepared according to recipe instructions. Color photos guide the preparers, so they know exactly how the plate should appear before it arrives at seat 31A.

11.00 a.m. The plated meal for the passenger in 31A, along with nearly 250 other entrées, gets loaded onto trays. Trays are inserted into trolleys, where they sit in a blast chiller until called for delivery to the aircraft.

2:30 p.m. The truck for Flight 958 delivers the meals for the flight, including the chicken with orange sesame glaze destined for seat 31A today. Each high-loader truck takes a trolley of trays, and the driver puts them onto the aircraft. The meals fit into a refrigerated compartment. It will take the driver about 30 minutes to get to the aircraft, then another 45 minutes to an hour to load the meals onto the plane.

6:00 p.m. Flight 958 takes off, bound for London. Flight attendants take economy class meal orders from the three selections: mandarin chicken, a pasta dish, and a beef meal. The passenger in seat 31A chooses the chicken with orange sesame sauce.

7:00 p.m. Flight attendants are busy heating the fully cooked but cold meals in a convection oven. The convection oven circulates the hot air and ensures meals are heated evenly and at the same temperature. It takes about 20 minutes to bring them to dining temperature, and then they are loaded onto carts to head down the aisle.

8:00 p.m. The orange chicken with sesame ginger glaze arrives at seat 31A, hot, colorful, and prepared to Chef Gulli’s specifications.

Airplane! If the food is safe, post an inspection grade and brag about it

The greatest fictional food poisoning on an airplane first premiered in 1980 in the satirical movie, Airplane!.

“We had a choice (for dinner) of steak or fish.”
“Yes, yes, I remember, I had lasagna.”

Everyone who had the fish becomes violently ill and a passenger is forced to land the plane.

But food poisoning can be nasty in real life, if you’re on a flight that still happens to serve something approximating food.

USA Today tomorrow has an editorial questioning the sanitary conditions at some of the catering facilities that provide 100 million meals yearly to U.S. and foreign airlines at U.S. airports.

Six months ago, U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspectors say they found live cockroaches and roach carcasses "too numerous to count" — as well as ants, flies and debris and workers handling food with bare hands — at the Denver facility of the world’s largest airline caterer, LSG Sky Chefs. Samples from a kitchen floor tested positive for Listeria, a bacteria that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections.

USA Today’s Gary Stoller, who obtained the inspections from the FDA, also found reports of violations at two other major airline caterers, Gate Gourmet and Flying Food Group.

The editorial says airlines can also do their part by demanding safe, sanitary food from caterers or refusing to do business with them.

In response, Jim Fowler, executive director of the International Flight Services Association, writes in a manner befitting a kindergarten teacher (no offense, mom) that “readers may be surprised to learn that the food served on airplanes is crafted in catering kitchens that operate with more stringent safety processes than those in many restaurants and fast-food establishments. The state-of-the-art standards followed voluntarily by airline caterers were first developed by NASA, whose guidelines are stringent and in some instances actually exceed other state or federal health requirements.”

Yes, it’s called HACCP, explain the lousy inspection reports.

“The incidents reported by USA Today were isolated.”

So the IFSA would be all for open and transparent grading of airline food safety, just as restaurants in most major cities are now embracing?