Foodborne illness is a growing concern in the U.S., and one that flight departments and FBOs should take seriously. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 48 million cases each year in the U.S., 128,000 of them severe enough to require hospitalization, 3,000 of them fatal. Travel medical services provider MedAire notes that gastrointestinal illness accounts for the largest percentage of calls from its private aviation customers, with 77 percent of them regarding passengers.
Along with the ample opportunities to network and meet with current and potential vendors, attendees at last month’s NBAA Schedulers and Dispatchers Conference had a slate of educational sessions led by industry experts to choose from, in this year’s case 29 in all, and among the offerings were several safety and emergency-themed seminars.
The threat of food-borne illness at 41,000 feet is all too real, and one the business aviation industry takes all too lightly, says Paula Kraft, a principal with Aviation Catering Consultants (ACC) of Atlanta.
According to in-flight medical emergency services specialist MedAire, 60 percent of its calls are related to gastrointestinal illnesses. That number leaves no doubt that food-handling standards should be just as rigorous as those that apply to aircraft maintenance, asserts Kraft.
Imagine a corporate aircraft cleaning crew discovering germs like E. coli, listeria, hepatitis and a few staph infections on the company airplane as they prepare it for the next trip? Paula Kraft, CEO of Atlanta Ga.-based Aviation Catering Consultants (ACC), conducted research on more than three dozen international airplanes (most of them U.S.-based) and found some of these germs on the control wheels, in the galley and in the lavatory.
In his eight-volume work, Physiology of Taste, French lawyer, magistrate, politician and gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, “Animals feed themselves, men eat; but only wise men know the art of eating.” He wrote those words in 1825, and still they contain a certain truth, particularly in the cabin of today’s business aircraft.
Erica Sheward’s long-awaited book Aviation Food Safety is now available from Blackwell Publishing, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DK, England, telephone +44 1865 776868, or contact Castle Kitchens at +44 1903 891400, www.castle kitchens.com. Sheward is technical director for Castle Kitchens and a long-time advocate of safety in food handling in the aviation industry.