E. coli

Airlines alter menus in response to E coli outbreak


The news about the outbreak of a “super-toxic” strain of E. coli bacteria in Europe is terrible: at least 18 people killed so far and more than 1,600 sickened.

As I wrote on msnbc.com’s Overhead Bin, the culprit may be bacteria on cucumbers, lettuce and other salad ingredients, so just to be safe, American and some other airlines have decided to temporarily remove salads from menus on flights departing Europe.

“We are adjusting our menus out of Europe by eliminating leafy salads, lettuce and tomato garnishes and adding either a pasta salad or grapes,” said America Airline spokesperson Tim Smith. “We are replacing the salad menu items with other menu options to pre-empt any risk and alleviate concerns.”

The airline has alerted travelers to this action with a notice on its website, which also states:

“We will closely monitor and take direction from the local health authorities and the World Health Organization and return to the original menu when we believe it is safe to do so.”

Other airlines, and the companies that prepare in-flight meals for airlines, are also making menu changes.

Lufthansa Airlines spokesperson Martin Riecken said after the May 25 warning from the German Robert-Koch institute about eating cucumbers, salads and tomatoes in North Germany, LSG Sky Chefs, the company that prepares in-flight meals for Lufthansa and 300 other airlines, “initiated preventive action to adjust its meal production in Germany.”

The company stopped the use of raw cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce and is providing substitute products for meals on flights out of Germany until mid-June.

Delta Air Lines spokesperson Chris Kelly Singley said the airline is monitoring the situation, but “at this time, Delta is not pulling salads from our flights departing Europe.”

And I’m waiting to hear back again from a representative at Gate Gourmet, which on its website boasts 270-plus customers at 120 airport locations around the globe.

Their written statement to me at the end of the day didn’t say whether or not any of their airline customers had changed their menus in response to the E. coli scare, only that:

“We are monitoring very closely what the European and global regulatory agencies are reporting and working with our customers to quickly implement alternate suppliers, if necessary.”