BA’s Heathrow Lounge Food, Pt 2: The Lord of the Flies?

Following on from my recent post regarding a rather poor Environmental Health Report for BA’s “exclusive” Concorde Room, Hillingdon Council, the local authority responsible for Heathrow, have conducted further inspections of BA’s lounge operations at the airport.

This time, the largest lounge in T5, the “Galleries Club South” scored 2 out of 5, like it’s neighbour.

The report for this lounge highlights a number of basic food hygiene failings that seem to indicate a real lack of care.

Among the problems here are:

  • Failure to observe a proper safety management system with respect to reheating of food
  • Like the First Class lounge, hot buffet food was being kept at a sufficiently low temperature to increase risk of toxic organisms
  • Pre-cooked rice, which has already been reheated once, reheated for a second time.
  • An infestation of fruit flies
  • Poor pest control – no pest control visit had been made since the current food & beverage contractor took over in May
  • Dirty equipment and inadequate cleaning
  • A cardboard sheet being used to steady a wobbly microwave – which soaked up grease and spills, quickly becoming dirty
  • Kitchen infrastructure maintenance problems such as holes in the walls and floor and inappropriate materials used (e.g. absorbent water-based paint)

Galleries Club North doesn’t get off scot-free either…

T5 is a pretty big place, so there’s another lounge at the other end of the terminal building, Galleries Club North. “Fortunately” this managed to scrape a 4 out 5 score, but don’t think everything is hunky dory here either, as it seems the lax practice is present here too – unsurprising as they come under the same management.

Highlighted in the report are:

  • Failings in proper storage of food – i.e. unwrapped items in the store room, which should be stored in sealed containers
  • Failure to inspect food deliveries – a delivery had visible mould on it’s packaging yet was still accepted and placed into storage
  • Another fruit fly infestation
  • Dirty food preparation areas
  • Poor pest control – the last recorded visit of an exterminator was April, before the current food & beverage operator took control
  • Mains cables hanging out of the wall

The reports make quite sad reading, highlighting what looks like a systemic problem of lax attention to food safety legislation and best practice, as well as giving a behind-the-scenes look at what has happened to the food you might eat just before travelling to a foreign country.

No-one wants to become sick during a long-haul flight, yet here BA are, serving boil-in-the-bag food which reportedly has been sat around for hours, potentially at unsafe temperatures.

The nature of the food, likely manufactured off-site at some anonymous food factory also differs significantly from BA’s promise of “fresh food” when the contractor was changed over.

Of course, there’s been no further word from BA since the report into the Concorde Room and First Class lounges saw the light of day. They remain tight-lipped and aloof toward their customers on the matter.

BA need to get a handle on this, and fast. Why? Because airlines are basically safety-driven cultures. Or they should be. The plane may be maintained to the required standards by competent engineers and flown by some of the best civil pilots in the world, but these catering issues – the service of potentially unsafe food – risk sending a message about the overall culture of safety and attention to detail.

Pest control and thorough cleaning are even more crucial now as the current food offering includes less individually wrapped foods than previously. While it may help BA meet sustainability targets by reducing non-recyclable waste, there are increased risks and these need to be managed. So, why isn’t cleaning being done properly?

I personally find it quite shocking that there seems to be no pest control happening. Anyone who has worked in catering knows this is vitally important. Even an office I worked in had regular pest control visits, usually every 6 weeks, to keep the kitchen rodent-free.

 

Question is, will this be enough to spur BA management into taking some decisive action, and to be more transparent with their regular customers?

For now, maybe the only safe things to eat in these lounges are the crisps?

1 thought on “BA’s Heathrow Lounge Food, Pt 2: The Lord of the Flies?”

  1. Why do airlines offer lounge nasty food they don’t charge for? Why not incorporate a quality restaurant into lounges and let people pay for a decent meal that’s been made from fresh ingredients? If I knew I could get a decent steak in the lounge I’d be happy to pay rather than hang around for four hours picking at nasty reheated sub-Tesco Value meals.

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