Food Safety In Corporate Aviation – The Missing Link

Food safety is something I get very excited about.   Eleven years ago working in the Middle East it became apparent how much food handling responsibility Flight Attendants had yet not a single thought to proper food safety training had been given. The irony was we talked about how to treat food poisoning yet not to prevent it in the first place. Given that aviation is a risk based industry we assess the risks first and put procedures in place to mitigate that risk this seemed absurd. Fast-forward to three years ago we launched the first European Food Safety Training program for corporate aviation and we are seeing the need for food safety becoming more recognized, however we still have a way to go.

From a legal perspective in the EU regulation EC 852/2004 the regulation on the Hygiene of Food stuffs states “all food handlers must be instructed and or supervised in their food handling matters commensurate with their work activities. Flight Attendants working on private aircraft are food handlers with a huge amount of responsibility and could be held accountable.


Let me enlighten you further with a few of these responsibilities and issues:

  1. Sourcing the catering worldwide – often high-risk foods such as sushi, sashimi, dairy, caviar, balik salmon, smoked salmon, cold cuts, sliced fruit, vegetables, cheeses, rice etc.   All the good stuff, which requires careful handling and keeping chilled in transit and onboard – remaining outside the temperature danger zone (where 5-63°c bacteria could rapidly multiply). That’s all very well however some jets today built for long haul do not even have proper chillers.
  1. The galleys can are often very compact and cross contamination can occur easily.
  1. Some of the food standards of destinations are very questionable. Potable water and ice can be a real issue.
  1. Some FA’S have to do the washing up onboard – the water is often not hot enough to allow for disinfection by high temperatures.
  1. Sometimes catering is procured from a restaurant or hotel, which is not ideal. This is a cook serve environment; meaning food is heated hot and ready to go. Specific instructions need to be given on how to prepare the food, chill it down and make it safe and suitable for transportation and for reheat. Guess whose responsibility that is? You guessed it the Flight Attendant
  1. There is still this idea that putting on a pair of food gloves will magically make any person wearing them and touching whatever they like immune to cross contaminating whatever else they touch. Gloves are like a 2nd skin; they need changing and hands washed regularly.
  2. Hand washing can be tricky on aircraft, some don’t have proper facilities upfront and you are sharing a bathroom with others who may not quite have the same standards.
  1. Many FA’s are seriously lacking in knowledge on dealing with food allergens – instructions for safe catering preparation, where they can be found let alone what the 14 EU allergen classifications are.
  1. I hate to say it but just general lack of knowledge leading to poor food practices.


I have touched on some issues but what about the consequences of somebody becoming ill and aircraft having to divert:

  1. The Flight Attendant could be held to be responsible
  1. As an aircraft operator are your clients going to want to use your services again if you make them ill?
  1. Given the scope of destinations being forced to divert into an underdeveloped country, because the passengers need immediate medical assistance could be the start of further complications.
  1. Worse still a death or serious illness. Food poisoning and food borne illnesses are more than just an upset stomach or vomiting.   Diseases, pathogens and viruses, which can incapacitate and cause death are spread via food and contaminated water.

 A food handler is considered anybody who serves ice and drinks upwards. I think there is no question Flight Attendants are food handlers and should be trained accordingly lets focus on prevention rather than the cure!

About Yasmin Milner

Yasmin is the Head of Training at Corporate Flight Training; a British aviation training company, who specialize in safety and service training for the private aviation sector. Yasmin has worked in aviation for over 18 years, she spent eight years working in commercial aviation and the last ten wears working in the private aviation sector firstly in Saudi Arabia for a VVIP operation, before moving back to Europe/Switzerland as the Chief Flight Attendant and instructor of a global corporations flight department. She has flown royalty, HNWI and some very well known celebrities in her time.

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