United Airlines faces lawsuits over food safety concerns

Photo: © Oliver Holzbauer

United Airlines is facing three lawsuits regarding food safety at its Newark Liberty Airport catering facility.

Former high-level managers accuse United of not addressing serious maintenance issues, which allowed strains of listeria bacteria to spread, they claim. This allegedly includes the potentially deadly Listeria monocytogenes.

According to the lawsuits, United Airlines did not take enough action when regular tests taken in the period from February to August showed 175 positive results of listeria bacteria, including 27 cases of Listeria monocytogenes, CNBC reports.

Listeria monocytogenes bacteria (or: L. mono) can cause the serious Listeriosis infection. “The infection is most likely to sicken pregnant women and their newborns, adults aged 65 or older and people with weakened immune systems.”, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Around 1,600 people get Listeriosis every year, of which 260 die.

United denies all allegations and states to the CNBC that it is not aware of any illnesses linked to food served on board its flights and that the airline is currently conducting maintenance at several areas of the Newark facility.

However, in August 2018, United Airlines had already admitted it found listeria in a cooler at the facility.

This is not the first time the airline is being accused of food mishandling. In November 2017, United was forced by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) to recall some chicken and pork products produced at its Denver facility, after positive traces of L. mono had been found. Health inspectors have also accused the company of critical food safety violations in the past.

United Airlines’ food production branches employ 2,700 people and produce around 100,000 meals each day.