Susan C. Friedenberg, President & CEO of Philadelphia-based Corporate Flight Attendant Training & Services, continues her series of articles on food safety awareness by outlining some of the questions that must be asked.

One of the many things that an FBO does as we all know is to receive and hold our catering once it is delivered. They wash our galley service items (glasses, china, flatware, crystal, coffee pots etc.) when handed-off to line service and some FBO's have their CSR's order catering for aircraft that do not have trained flight attendants to do this on layovers.

I always wonder how many crews really go into the kitchen area of an FBO and look at it for cleanliness? As a pilot or flight attendant you have every right to go in the back and look at the kitchen and the counters and the refrigerator for cleanliness. What about the ice machines? Are they clean?

Is the ice, catering, washed dishes, coffee pots, newspaper delivery to the aircraft delivered by a line service person that has just serviced a lav and did not wear gloves, did not wash their hands and now they are touching my ice bags and catering? Or are they wearing gloves and then not removing them and delivering my catering and ice and coffee pots with contaminated gloves on? Best practices for the line service people is important as well as the state of the kitchen. How are they delivering my things to me? On a dirty tug that has my catering on top of contaminated cholks that were just on the ground 20 minutes ago? I have observed all of the above. Here are a few things to ask any FBO.

Ask them who cleans your dishes and where? I once caught an FBO line service person washing my galley items in the bathroom. That is disgusting!

Are they hand washing or using a dishwasher? If I am handing off my service items to be washed, I want them put in a dish washer so they are sanitized. 198 degrees Fahrenheit - 92.2 degrees Celsius is the correct operating temperature for a dishwasher. Otherwise, I would have hand washed them myself on the aircraft. The water on the aircraft is never going to be 198F-92.2C.

DO NOT ACCEPT UNWRAPPED CATERING FROM THE FBO. If catering is delivered and not in a sealed box, anyone has access to it. My tail number and my name and possibly the company's name is on this box or open bag of catering. How do I know that someone did not "borrow" some of my catering, and now it is contaminated. Their hands were IN my catering. Where were their hands prior to that? Again, servicing a lav, a person that just used the lav in the FBO and did not wash their hands? Are they wearing food handling gloves to bring me my catering?

The FBO should have a commercial refrigerator. I have walked into every FBO kitchen that I have arrived at, and I would have to say that 75% of them do not have a commercial refrigerator. In fact, every FBO "should" have 2 refrigerators. One that is designated just for newly delivered catering from the caterers. It is new food, never touched by anyone except the caterer who most likely wore food handling gloves while packing it for ride to the FBO. The other refrigerator should be designated for employee food and catering that has been on inbound aircraft that the F/A or pilots want held for the next leg out.

No employee food or food being held from other aircraft from a F/A for over-night holding should be permitted in the new outbound catering refrigerator. Held over night food is now contaminated. It was on a plane and was loaded into a galley that may or may not be clean, may or may not have been held on the arrival aircraft at safe temperatures and bacteria that doubles every 20 minutes is crawling all over this catering. It may have been opened and touched by someone, and it is now considered "used" catering. Newly delivered food from the caterer should never be in the same refrigerator with employee food or old off loaded catering.

The refrigerator should not have stacked trays, (cross contamination) and should only be used for NEW catering. If the catering was not delivered in sealed boxes or in open shopping bags, and the packaging is individual trays, they should not be stacked in any refrigerator. Hypothetically, if you have a tray that has an item in it that has gone bad and it is now tainted possibly with bacteria or ecoli, and it leaks into a tray stacked below it, you now have two trays of contaminated food. If a caterer cannot package your catering in a way that keeps it secure, instruct them to "shrink wrap" it. This is a precautionary measure to keep anything from leaking down into another tray or anyone from breaking into your catering and "borrowing" food from it.

Does the FBO maintain a cooler temperature log which is a charted record on the inside of the refrigerator? All refrigerators should have a temperature log. The inside of the refrigerator should always be at 40 degrees Fahrenheit/4.4 degrees Celsius.

Does anyone have access to the refrigerator? Do they keep it locked to prevent food sabotage? We are flying global leaders. Food sabotage is a reality. What is the FBO doing to implement strict guidelines ensuring that not everyone has access to our catering. Refrigerators should have a locking mechanism of some type.

Does the FBO leave your company name and tail number out in open view on the counter? Does the caterer deliver the catering to the Customer Service counter person or is it taken directly to the refrigerator? Again, do I want anyone walking by the counter in the FBO and seeing my aircraft tail number, my name and possibly the company name on my catering box or bags? This is a precautionary measure. The moment that your catering is delivered it should be put in the refrigerator in the kitchen out of the general FBO public''s eyes. Not all FBO's have security. Anyone can walk into most FBO's. That is another topic in itself.

I am in no way saying all FBO's have lax best practices. However, I have observed all of the above. Food kills and it is up to all of us to demonstrate safe practices around catering to protect our passengers and crews. We offer a one day training globally called: CHARTER / FBO / S&D / HANDLERS - Food Safety Awareness & How To Order Catering Training.

13 May 2010

Susan is available to present this topic and other Business Aviation Flight Attendant related safety topics at conferences, annual meetings and organizational meetings.

Susan C. Friedenberg - President & CEO
Corporate Flight Attendant Training & Services
Telephone # 215.625.4811

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