Report Questions Security of Airline Food Vendors

A new report is raising serious questions about airline food safety and security, and specifically mentions one catering company at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

The labor union UNITE HERE, which represents 12,000 airline catering employees in the United States, surveyed its members for the report sent to the Transportation Security Administration.

“One in four people think that an unauthorized person could get into their catering kitchen,” said Jessica Choy, who authored the report for UNITE HERE.

At DFW International Airport and others around the country, food catering trucks pull right up to planes on the Tarmac to deliver inflight meals.

The report specifically mentions Gate Gourmet at DFW Airport, which provides meals to several airlines there, including British Airways, Aero México, KLM, Korean Air and Spirit.

The report notes the company’s facility at DFW does not include a security fence, leaving unattended catering trucks parked in an open lot.

“Anytime that these trucks are left out in the open like that unsecured, we’re concerned that those trucks then have access to a secure airport terminal,” said Choy.

In response to the survey, Gate Gourmet sent a statement to NBC 5, which reads:

"The security procedures we follow are established by TSA regulations and customer specifications, and with respect to our fleet, including the photograph UNITE HERE used in its report, there’s nothing that indicates in any way that protocols aren’t being followed.

"The report submitted by UNITE HERE to the TSA does not capture the full extent of these security measures established by TSA regulations and airline requirements, which together comprise a multi-layered security program. As many of the related protocols are proprietary or are considered sensitive security information, there are numerous layers in place about which airline catering workers specifically would not be knowledgeable.

"We take pride in working closely with the TSA, our customers and business partners to keep our employees and the flying public safe and secure."

Another company mentioned in the report, LSG Sky Chefs, also operates at DFW, but its facility there is not singled out in the union’s report.

Still, LSG Sky Chefs sent NBC 5 a statement, saying:

"Our company understands the critical importance of protecting the safety and security of the catering supply chain and has robust, risk-based, multi-layered security systems in place. In addition, our industry regularly works with the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) and other agencies to further enhance these efforts. The union’s survey is not comprehensive and respondents may not be aware of all of the security measures already in place or the on-going efforts to evaluate and enhance security. Safety and security are among our company’s highest priorities which we share with the airlines we serve, the TSA and other agencies that play a role in this vital effort."

And the TSA provided the following statement about the UNITE HERE report:

"TSA is aware of the report. The security of airline catering is a top priority for our agency. The TSA has a rigorous inspection and testing program that continuously ensures compliance with all applicable TSA regulations. The agency conducts inspections on a regular basis in order to enhance aviation security and ensure the safety of the traveling public.

"TSA employs multiple layers of security to protect the traveling public. On board aircraft, these layers include reinforced cockpit doors, Federal Air Marshals, armed pilots and a vigilant public, as well as many others, both seen and unseen."

Read the full report for yourself here.

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