ATLANTA - Local health inspectors tell Channel 2 Action News a disturbing federal report on disgusting conditions inside the airline caterer's facility at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport caught them by surprise.
On Monday, investigative reporter Aaron Diamant sat down with Clayton County Board of Health inspectors to go through airline caterer Gate Gourmet's most recent local inspection report line by line.
The company's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport facility scored an A, 97 points out of 100, last October. The three-point loss was a minor violation for a missing food thermometer.
"They did very good," said Clayton County health inspector Sam McCullough.
That glowing inspection is why a scathing six-page report for the same facility written by FDA inspectors the following month, which Diamant first reported last week, raised red flags with the local inspectors.
"Based upon the observations from our staff, it is surprising," McCullough said.
Some of the more troubling federal findings included:
- Water was observed splashing onto the cooked pasta from the floor and the drains
- Failure to conduct cleaning and sanitizing operations for utensils
- An employee was observed cleaning the flat top grill with only water and orange juice
- Pigeons were observed flying over the ovens
"All of those are issues of concern, but we can only document what we observe," McCullough said.
Turns out, Clayton County's twice-yearly inspections of the Gate Gourmet facility are limited to the building's seemingly spotless cafeteria, where the employees eat.
The rest of the operation, which produces millions of airline meals every year, is off limits.
Despite what the feds found going on inside the same building, McCullough said local inspectors' hands are tied.
"Unfortunately, there's nothing that we can do, because it's beyond our control," McCullough said.
Meanwhile, Gate Gourmet officials have insisted that the company has made changes at the facility to correct the problems federal inspectors found and instituted new policies to keep them from happening again.
Still, the local inspectors say they'll be watching the parts of the facility within their jurisdiction more closely.