Food safety advocates appalled by Gate Gourmet inspection report

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:

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ATLANTA - Reaction is pouring in after Channel 2 Action News broke the story about conditions federal inspectors found inside airline cater Gate Gourmet's Hartsfield-Jackson airport facility.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant said it wasn't hard to find experts willing to sound the alarm over this report he got through an open records request.

The report detailed six pages of problems federal inspectors said put passengers at risk of getting sick from the food made at the facility.

Gate Gourmet insists all the problems have been fixed, but advocates say staying fixed will be a whole lot harder.

"My biggest concern was the safety of the people," said a whistleblower whose tip led FDA inspectors to Gate Gourmet's Hartsfied-Jackson facility last November.

"It's totally disgusting," he said.

Diamant obtained the scathing report written by the feds about dangerous and disturbing conditions they saw inside.

Some of the highlights include: "Water was observed splashing onto the cooked pasta from the floor and the drain."

"Failure to conduct cleaning and sanitizing operations for utensils," was also listed in the report along with "An employee was observed cleaning the flat top grill with only water and orange juice."

The report also said, "Pigeons were observed flying over the ovens."

"This report ranks up there with one of the worst I have ever read," said Tony Corbo with Food and Water Watch in Washington, D.C. "Millions of passengers go through that airport. They are running the risk of causing a major food safety catastrophe unless it cleans up its act."

A very real risk says Emory University public health researcher Amy Kirby.

"We're looking at e-coli, norovirus is probably a huge hazard coming out of this, because it's very easily transmitted," Kirby said.

While Gate Gourmet leaders insist it's corrected all the issues inspectors saw and put new preventative measures in place.

"Cleaning can be done relatively quickly. The bigger concern is appropriate management. Are they going to continue to clean appropriately every day with every worker? That's really what needs to happen here and that's going to take some oversight to make sure that that happens," Kirby said.

An email Diamant got from Gate Gourmet said, "In this instance, we thoroughly investigated each observation, identified root causes and took corrective action. Furthermore, we have defined preventive actions for each observation."

We're still working to find out when the FDA will be back Gate Gourmet for a re-inspection.