Corporate Flight Attendant Training 101: Food Safety
This is a post by guest author Dietmar Duller, founder and course leader of Training Solutions. Dietmar was asked to contribute to this blog because of his expertise in business aviation flight attendant training in the Middle East and Europe. Any thoughts expressed below are entirely Dietmar’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Universal Weather and Aviation, Inc.
Flight attendants are responsible for many aspects of a flight, and one of those responsibilities is in-flight catering. One of the most important aspects of in-flight catering is food safety, which is critical to the well-being of both the passengers and crew.
Below is an overview of what you need to know about food safety when serving in-flight catering:
1. Why is food safety important?
Food that has been improperly prepared, stored, or served may contain harmful pathogens or allergens, resulting in illness or even death. Because they handle food, flight attendants are partly responsible for monitoring food safety to ensure the well-being of both passengers and crew members.
Corporate flight attendant responsibilities regarding in-flight catering and food safety include the following:
- Ordering or shopping for food
- Receiving delivery of catering
- Storing food safely
- Preparing food
- Serving food
2. Which kinds of food can be dangerous?
Several types of food, which are often served on business aviation jets, can be dangerous. Special attention should be paid to the following sorts of food:
- Meat (especially raw meat such as Carpaccio or beef tartare)
- Fish/seafood (especially raw fish such as sushi and sashimi)
- Dairy products (especially cheese [unpasteurized cheese in particular])
- Soy products
- Starch (e.g., bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice)
- Green, leafy vegetables
3. What is the temperature danger zone for food?
The temperature danger zone for food is between 39 and 140° Fahrenheit (5 and 60° Celsius).
The temperature danger zone allows food-borne bacteria to grow, increasing the risk of contamination. Timing and temperature control play critical roles in food safety. Therefore, the amount of time that food spends in the danger zone must be minimized.
4. What is the cooling chain?
The "cooling chain" refers to the safe transportation of food items. There should be no weak link in the cooling chain, and the temperatures should be maintained with minimum fluctuations. Cooling boxes and dry ice (a solid form of carbon dioxide used as a cooling agent) are used for transporting food safely.
The food industry uses Hazard Analyses Critical Control Point both as a useful tool and as a quality management system which analyzes, measures, controls, documents, and validates food transportation, storage, preparation, and service.
5. What is "cross-contamination"?
"Cross-contamination" of food happens when harmful microorganisms from raw food – such as raw meat or fish or unwashed vegetables – are transferred to ready-to-eat food, such as salads or sandwiches.
Ready-to-eat food will not be further cooked, so contamination at this point can lead to food poisoning.
6. What are the main causes of food poisoning?
There are many causes of food poisoning; however, below are some common situations that may result in issues for passengers or crew members:
- Meat, poultry, fish, and seafood are not cooked well enough or not reheated thoroughly
- Food is prepared too far in advance of eating
- Cooked food is contaminated by raw food
- Contaminated food is delivered
- Food handlers transmit pathogens
- Cooking surface and utensils are not cleaned properly
Food temperature thermometers, which indicate the inner temperature of cooked meat, are routinely used by corporate flight attendants. Some flight attendants even keep thermometers in refrigerators to ensure the food is always stored at the correct temperature.
7. What are the symptoms of food poisoning?
Symptoms of food poisoning include, but are not limited to, upset stomach, sweating, dizziness, headache, fatigue, dry mouth, vomiting, abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhea, fever, and dehydration.
Symptoms of food poisoning can start as early as an hour after eating but can also occur up to 10 days later. These symptoms can last from hours to several days.
8. What should every corporate flight attendant do to protect her passengers and crew members?
Below are some pro-active tips that corporate flight attendants can follow to protect all onboard:
- Make personal hygiene a priority
- Wash hands often and properly (with soap and warm water)
- Use plastic gloves when working in galley
- Keep food preparation environment and utensils clean at all times
- Check in-flight catering orders and deliveries and ask questions to confirm supplier has provided complete and accurate information
- Be aware of temperature danger zone
- Make sure cooling chain is followed
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