American Airlines Halts Use of L.A. Airport Kitchen After Listeria Is Found

A listeria outbreak has caused American Airlines to halt use of a catering facility at Los Angeles International Airport.

A listeria finding has caused American Airlines Group Inc. (AAL) - Get American Airlines Group, Inc. Report to temporarily cease using a catering facility at Los Angeles International Airport.

The Gate Gourmet catering facility is used not only by American Airlines Group Inc. but also by Delta Air Lines Inc.  (DAL) - Get Delta Air Lines, Inc. Report   and a half dozen international airlines.

"We made the decision to halt operations out of there starting today," American spokeswoman Katie Cody said early Wednesday, Nov. 1. "Starting overnight, we began notifying passengers whose catering have been affected by it."

Cody said the carrier is working on several solutions to the problem, including offering snacks at certain gates, finding alternative catering and, in cases where catering is not up to American's standard, providing vouchers that can be used on future flights.

While several health agencies tested the facility and found traces of listeria, "We do not know of any traces found on food or of any illnesses reported," Cody said.

Gate Gourmet found a trace of listeria "as part of routine inspections (in) non-food contact areas, primarily floor drains," said spokeswoman Catherine Nugent. She said the company treated the areas "immediately and aggressively." 

Only American moved to suspend Gate Gourmet food deliveries, she said.

In a letter to American flight attendants, Bob Ross, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, wrote early Wednesday. "As a health and safety measure, the company has taken the appropriate steps of removing all food catering for all LAX departures starting immediately and lasting approximately a week."

"They are in the process of notifying thousands of departing passengers, International included, to let them know the food service out of LAX will be disrupted," Ross wrote.

"The information we have received so far is that American is working to provide you enough supplies as possible for your flight," he said. "They do not expect you to perform miracles."

"It is important to know there is no immediate threat to your health or safety as all food items that are normally provided by LAX Catering will be removed and any items provided have been assured to be safe for consumption," he wrote.

According to the Centers for Disease Control website, listeriosis is a serious infection usually caused by eating food with the bacterium listeria monocytogenes. An estimated 1,600 people get listeriosis each year, the CDC said, and about 260 die. The infection is most likely to sicken pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged 65 or older and people with weakened immune systems.

The current outbreak is not the first case of listeria at Los Angeles International Airport.

In June 2015, a federal inspector on a routine visit to food service facilities at Los Angeles International Airport in January found conditions that, she wrote, could compromise the safety of food meant for airline passengers, according to The New York Times, which based its story on a report issued by Unite Here, a union representing airline food workers.

The facility in question was owned and operated by Flying Food Group, another catering company.

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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.