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Food Galley Safety


Food Galley Safety 

By Jean Dible, GA Food Safety Professionals

Your Food Safety Connection

Aircraft Food galleys are a major destination for uninvited passengers. Various pathogens lurk in crevices and other damp surfaces in the food galley area. Even if catered food arrives safely aboard an aircraft, it may not remain safe for long.

Many food safety procedures are skimmed over lightly in an aircraft food galley; these omissions contribute to the contamination of food, water or other types of beverages. Passengers and crew can become ill because of neglect by the food handler in the aircraft, which could be a Dinner Plate Served By Corporate Flight Attendantspilot, Co-Pilot, Flight Attendant, or anyone who handles the food. Dirty hands, dirty fingernails, contaminated clothing, uncontained hair, cutting boards, cloths, or sponges, and contaminated equipment are just a few of the culprits that can cause a foodborne outbreak aboard an aircraft.

There are so many ways that food can become unsafe in an aircraft, but in this condensed article, I will discuss only a few, a good start for understanding the danger in food handling in an aircraft galley.

As much as 200 percent more bacteria are found on an average cutting board in home kitchens, or food galleys in an aircraft than on a toilet seat. Cutting boards are dangerous areas for pathogen growth, and wooden cutting boards should never be used. Always clean and sanitize an acrylic cutting board between uses, and any surface, such as the refrigerator or microwave, which is exposed to food. Never use the same cutting board in an aircraft for ready-to-eat-food, if that cutting board was used to cut raw vegetables or meats. An aircraft food galley should have several cutting boards, and the boards must be cleaned and sanitized after each use.

Regardless of what type of wipes or sponge a food handler uses in a food galley, bacterium is spread with each swipe of an infected sponge or cloth.

Get rid of all sponges!

Sponges are a breeding ground for all types of pathogens in any type of kitchen, and bacterium in sponges is extremely hard to kill. Forget the usual method of using microwaves and washing machines with bleach to try to destroy bacteria in sponges. These methods are far from foolproof.

The food handler must remain mindful of the fact that any other type of disposable cloth or wipe used in a food galley area becomes Get Rid Of The Sponge!contaminated very quickly. Being mindful of that fact, the safest policy in a food galley is to use disposable wipes and discard them after each use.

Remember, cleansing wipes only clean the surface, but do not sanitize. In order to clean and sanitize (kill the pathogens), you will have to use two different types of wipes. For sanitizing a surface, a Quats based chemical (Quaternary Ammonium) in a wipe will not have to be rinsed off after the sanitizing process. Quats based sanitizing wipes can be purchased through BE Princess Aviation Supply @800-489-0609. Alcohol-based sanitizers have to be rinsed off after the surface has dried. Bacteria and other pathogens thrive on anything that is touched while preparing food. This includes other appliances, counters, faucet handles, coolers, oven doors, cabinets, etc. Please do not forget to clean and sanitize these areas as often as possible.

Any type of cloth or dry kitchen towel used in a food galley, for any reason, presents a danger to food safety. Too often, food handlers tend to use towels for wiping surfaces, as well as for potholders for hot foods coming out of an oven, or for holding the handles of hot pots.

Using a kitchen towel as a potholder for pulling hot food out of an oven is an accident waiting to happen. A dry kitchen towel can catch fire if it brushes against the hot oven coils, resulting in burned fingers. In addition, most dry kitchen towels are very thin, and hands are easily burned on the searing pans through the thin towels. Kitchen towels can also scorch themselves, especially if they are frayed or have holes in them. Using a damp towel on a hot pan usually produces steam, which can cause a nasty steam burn on the fingers and palms.

Reaching into an aircraft oven with bare arms can also cause burns from the wrist up to the elbow, through contact with hot racks, oven doors and pans.

To forestall being burned in an aircraft food galley, always have an inventory of hot pads, oven mitts, and pan handles made with fireproof materials. These items should be in your “bag of tricks’ that always travels with you.

If you should be burned in the food galley, apply ice or cold water immediately. After the cold treatment, apply a medicated salve or aloe on the burnt skin to soothe and help the healing process. Cover burns with clean bandages, rubber gloves or clothing before working with or around food. If the burn is on the fingers, cover the finger with a bandage, a finger cot, and last of all, a rubber glove. When not working with or around food, expose burns to the air to help the healing process. Once burns have become infected on the hands or arms, the chances of contamination to the food of the passengers or crew is very likely.

Seared TunaFingernails are another major problem for anyone who handles food in any kitchen or food galley. Any length of fingernails will harbor bacteria, and acrylic fake nails are comparable to a cesspool for breeding bacteria. In Georgia and many other states throughout the United States, a law enforced by County Environmental Health Departments for commercial kitchens on the ground states, “fingernails must be no longer than the tips of the fingers, unless a glove is worn when preparing food.

Another Environmental Health Department code throughout the United States is; “There should be no bare hand contact with ready-to-eat-foods.” This means that anyone handling food that will be going directly into a person’s mouth has to have on rubber or latex gloves. WHY?

The bacteria normally found on your skin, called resident bacteria, spend their lives in the small folds of the skin on your hands and body, on hair or under fingernails. These resident bacteria on the skin of normal, healthy people are usually not harmful, but they are always there, and cannot be removed completely.

On the other hand, other pathogens, called transient bacteria, are transferred to your skin in many different ways. You can pick up transient bacteria by touching a telephone, handling money, preparing food, or touching anything on a hard or soft surface. Bacterium is all around us in our environments. You can remove many of the transient bacteria, but not all, by washing your hands with hot water and lots of soap, which includes scrubbing your fingernails. Since bacteria is microscopic, we have to assume that it is always on our hands, even thought we can not see it.

In conclusion, concerning the hands, it is very important to always have a box of rubber or latex gloves in any aircraft galley. Wearing gloves, while preparing food for passengers and crew, can help to cut down on cross contamination of the food being handled and prepared, and might just prevent a foodborne outbreak aboard the aircraft.

Pathogens are just as real and alive as you are. They eat and grow. They reproduce and die. We just cannot see them!


  • University of Georgia - Cooperative Extension Service

Author Information:


Jean Dible is president and founder of GA Food Safety Professionals, a mobile food & alcohol safety training school in Atlanta, GA. Jean is a contributing writer to the Corporate Flight Attendant Community website; her Your Food Safety Connection column appears here on a bi-monthly basis.