What is the deal with airline food? Good question! Turns out, the deal with airline food is that it is made at facilities containing roach carcasses "too numerous to count." And that's just one of the FDA reports!

USA Today's intrepid Gary Stoller took a dive into the Food and Drug Administration reports for airline food preparation facilities, and found out that those facilities are really gross. Since January of last year, some 46 facilities have been inspected—and 27 of them (almost 60 per cent!) were written up for "suspected food-preparation violations or objectionable practices." But, come on, FDA, what's so objectionable about "rodent nesting materials and rodent feces under a pallet of food"?

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•An FDA inspector spotted a mouse, rodent nesting materials and rodent feces under a pallet of food and in other areas at LSG Sky Chefs' Minneapolis facility during a May 2009 inspection.

•The Dulles, Va., facility of Gate Gourmet, the second-largest caterer in the USA, failed to keep shrimp, filet mignon, Chilean sea bass, chicken and vegetables, and pastrami and cheese sandwiches at the proper temperature during an inspection in August. When an inspector mentioned the unsafe practice to company personnel, the shrimp and the pastrami and cheese sandwiches were not thrown in the garbage.
Employees with "unclean hands" were handling food. A lab report found a "high coliform count" in rice. [Ed. Note: Coliform is a bacteria often found in excrement. You know: Doo-doo.]

•At Gate Gourmet's San Diego facility in November, the director of operations said the company would cook any food to an airline's specification without regard to food safety guidelines, an FDA inspector wrote. He also wrote that a Gate Gourmet official said the company doesn't verify if food is from approved sources or frozen for "parasite destruction." Raw meats aren't cooked to adequate temperatures - a repeat violation that was also cited in 2008.

•A Los Angeles facility of Flying Food Group had a corroded and taped ice-machine door that failed to "hold ingredients in bulk or in suitable containers to protect against contamination," an inspector wrote in an April report.

Three of the airline food prep companies—Flying Food Group, Gate Gourmet and LSG Sky Chefs—received a "Form 483" from the FDA. A Form 483 is what you get after "significant" rodent feces—sorry, suspected violations. But don't sweat! The spokespeople for all of these companies say that it's not even a big deal and they're totally working on not, you know, serving you dead roaches on your flight to Los Angeles. "We can guarantee the safest product out there," says Gate Gourmet Vice President Norbert van den Berg, which is very reassuring! I assume when he says "product" he means "food" and not "rice, cooked in excrement."

This is really gross. It's probably not that surprising, either. But why are you eating airline food in the first place? It could be made inside a bottle of disinfectant and it would still be incredibly gross. Make yourself a sandwich, next time. You can still have the pretzels.

[USA Today]