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July 19, 2012

Aviation Food Safety: Needles found in sandwiches on Delta flight

Traveling on a commercial airline can present many questions for passengers: Are my toiletries packed correctly? Are my shoes easy to take on and off during security checks? Am I arriving to the airport in time to catch my flight? Will my luggage make it to my destination? And many more. Thinking about such questions can be exhausting, so it is easy to understand why food might be the last thing on a passenger's mind. Knowing they can get a snack on a flight, and even meals on international flights, many people rely on the airlines to not only keep them safe but also to keep them nourished while traveling.

While there are international aviation food safety guidelines, as detailed in the Worldwide Food Safety Guidelines for Airline Catering guide, food can be mishandled at any time and cause dangerous, if not deadly, consequences.

For example, Delta passengers traveling in July 2012 on flights from Amsterdam to the United States found needles in the turkey sandwiches that the airline provided to them in-flight. One passenger was injured after biting into a sandwich containing a needle, and he is now on medication to prevent the potential development of HIV. Officials are examining the needle for toxic substances and the FBI is investigating how the needles got into the sandwiches that catering company Gate Gourmet supplied to Delta. Other airlines also receive in-flight food from Gate Gourmet.

There have been no additional reports of food tampering, and Delta is now serving sealed, prepackaged food on its flights. Gate Gourmet said in a statement, "We take this matter very seriously. Gate Gourmet immediately launched a full investigation to determine the root cause of this disturbing incident, and we are treating this as a criminal act."

Learn more about aviation food safety and the associations that oversee the worldwide food safety guidelines, the International Flight Services Association ("IFSA") and the Association of European Airlines ("AEA").

Read about Motley Rice's aviation lawyers and how they work to protect passenger rights and fight on behalf of victims' family members and injured plane crash survivors.