Gate Gourmet, a major provider of catering services for airlines at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, said it has corrected a series of food safety problems uncovered during a federal inspection last fall.
The Food and Drug Administration inspection, first reported by Channel 2 Action News, was conducted Nov. 29. It produced more than two dozen findings. They included:
- Employees who were not washing their hands.
- Equipment and utensils that were not properly cleaned.
- Pigeons that were observed on uncovered ovens outside on a loading dock and on pallets of water, soft drinks and tomato juice.
The findings did not lead to any enforcement actions or warning letters, and Gate Gourmet reported to the FDA in December that it had taken corrective and preventive measures.
The company provides more than 250 million meals annually around the world to more than 250 airlines. It has about 1,500 employees in Atlanta.
A former employee first alerted the FDA to the food safety concerns, Channel 2 said. In some of the more troubling findings at Hartsfield-Jackson, the report cited problems with employees’ sanitation habits. “At least nine employees were observed continuously entering and exiting food processing areas without washing, sanitizing and/or changing their gloves,” the report said.
The report also found prepared foods were exposed to cleaning agents. In one instance, the FDA said a hose hanging off the back of a flat-top grill was seen spraying onto “finished peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.” At another point, an employee was spraying water into a boiler and it also splashed onto cooked pasta.
Gate Gourmet said corrective measures were taken in each of those cases and others cited in the FDA report. The company said it had retrained employees about washing their hands, and it now periodically performs hand-washing tests on workers.
Audits are conducted throughout the day to ensure equipment is sanitized properly, and all employees will be taught the proper way to clean equipment. Ovens and other equipment that had been accessible to the pigeons have been moved inside, the company said.