Wednesday, July 18, 2012

~ Needle Sandwiches ~

by Tina~in_ut

MINNEAPOLIS — Jim Tonjes was high above North America when he bit into a hot turkey sandwich aboard a Delta Air Lines flight and felt a sudden jab in his mouth.

Glancing down, he noticed what looked like a sewing needle in the food. Another passenger on the plane reported the same thing.

At first, he thought a toothpick meant to hold the sandwich together had punctured the roof of his mouth.

When he pulled it out, “it was a straight needle, about one inch long, with sharp points on both ends.”

Now U.S. and European authorities are trying to determine how the needles got into meals served on at least four Delta flights from Amsterdam to the U.S. and why anyone would place them there.

“We are keeping all options open because at this moment, we have no idea why somebody or something put needles inside the sandwiches,” said Robert van Kapel, a spokesman for Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

The FBI and the airport’s police department have opened criminal investigations. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration said it does not view the matter as a threat to national security.

A Delta spokeswoman said the needles were found Sunday in six sandwiches on four flights. Passengers discovered four of them. The flights included one to Minneapolis, one to Seattle and two to Atlanta.

Tonjes was returning after a visit to Amsterdam for his mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. The nine-hour flight was about 90 minutes from Minneapolis when flight attendants offered Tonjes, who was seated in business class, a cold Mediterranean salad or the hot turkey sandwich.

“I’ll be very honest, the first bite, I thought, ‘Boy, this is pretty good,’” Tonjes said. “It was the second bite that got me.”

Now Tonjes is on a 28-day course of pills (at a cost of $1,400) aimed at warding off any infection, including hepatitis or HIV. His doctors have asked the FBI to tell them right away if they find any residue on the needle.

The sandwiches were made by Gate Gourmet, one of the world’s largest airline caterers, with facilities on five continents.

The company serves many airlines, but only Delta flights appeared to be affected. The company said it was investigating. Spokesman David Fisher declined to elaborate.

Delta Air Lines Inc. spokeswoman Kristin Baur said security has been stepped up at all of the Gate Gourmet facilities used by the airline. Delta is also using more prepackaged food.

Gate Gourmet was founded in 1992 to cater Swissair flights and grew by taking over other airline caterers, including that of British Airways. It went into private ownership in 2003.

Even though U.S. airlines no longer serve free meals in coach on domestic flights, the airline catering business is still a big industry. Gate Gourmet provides food for 9,700 flights per day. That’s 250 million meals a year from 122 flight kitchens.

Those kitchens are often not on airport grounds, so meals are taken by truck to a “sterile” area where planes are parked. The TSA monitors the area in the U.S. Local authorities monitor it at overseas airports.

“Food delivery to airports is a very strict process,” said Erroll Southers, a former FBI agent who was the chief of Homeland Security and Intelligence for the police department at Los Angeles World Airports. Truck drivers get background checks, and “those trucks are inspected for everything from sealed packages to explosive devices,” said Southers, who is also managing director of counter-terrorism at TAL Global Corp., an international security consulting service.

The needles are a reminder that insiders — people who work within the industry and have passed a background check — are among the biggest threats to aviation security, Southers said.

Gate Gourmet’s ads for cooks say applicants must be able to pass a criminal background check. The TSA declined to discuss the security process.

Ton Scherrenberg, chairman of the VNC union that represents some 7,000 Dutch cabin personnel, said cabin crews check prepared food for foreign objects when they open catering packages, “but you can’t check every single sandwich.”

When the needles were discovered on the first Delta flight, a message went out to other Delta flights, which is why some of the needles were found before they got to passengers. The TSA said it “immediately notified all U.S. air carriers with flights from Schiphol to ensure awareness.”

On board Tonjes’ flight, he pushed the flight attendant call button as soon as he found his needle. A few minutes later, another passenger nearby did the same thing. He said flight attendants offered to call ahead for an ambulance.

“When we landed, it was very, very impressive. When they opened the door, it was flooded with customs agents, police, paramedics and firefighters. It was the whole jetway full of people.”

The FBI interviewed him for about three hours. He said he was told the remaining sandwiches were X-rayed, and a third needle was found.

Gate Gourmet was cited by the FDA in 2005 for failing to keep meat at proper temperatures and for the presence of live flies and roaches near its salad production area, plus other violations.

Roy Costa, who runs food safety consulting firm Environ Health Associates in Deland, Fla., and used to be an auditor with the Department of Health and Human Services for more than 20 years, said food preparation standards are not as tight in Europe as in the U.S.

“Everything we do over here, we do because the (Food and Drug Administration) requires it,” he said.

“There’s just a huge hole there.”

Can you just say CRAP?!!!!!~  The thing that got me was the medication this man has to take for HIV and hepatitis. This is one crazy ass world!!!!


Zona said...

Good Morning!!

TINA: Crazy indeed! Why would anyone do this? I don't understand people sometimes..I really don't. Geez..

BARB, J/LIN and LYNN: I'm glad that you're home safe and anyway.. ;D

Dianne/Denver said...

Well look at you Miss Zona----all decked in first again. Congratulations--- I'm not far behind you today.

Tina: Crap. People are so out there you don't know what anyone would do in this world. Now I'll be checking out my sandwiches......everywhere. Thanks for the blog and all you work on it.

I loved Jersey Boys. The music is wonderful with a very interesting story to go along with it. If ever given the opportunity to see it--- I highly recommend it and I've seen it twice now. I'm still singing the songs this morning.

I've been to lunch and dinner within the last week at the same restaurant---different locations. I hadn't been to this place in years. The three different people that I have gone to meet all have picked the same place. I don't tell them I was just there as I always say it doesn't matter to me. Good thing I like it and it's reasonable in price. Just kind of ironic

sacBarb said...

Zona, You are the prettiest today again. Congratz.

Dianne, Like you, there places here that I don't mind eating at often because I like their food so much.

sacBarb said...

Tina, I heard this story on the news last night and thought of you immediately. Are you having to field nasty phone calls about this?

sacBarb said...

We are all recuperating from our Tahoe trip. Lynn slept til 9:00 and J/L and I got up at 10:00. None of us are dressed yet. Maybe we will just stay this way all day. :-)

Tina~in_ut said...

Zona~ Congrats on first~

Di~ Congrats on second~

Sackie~ Congrats on third~ :)~

We haven't really heard anything about this so far. I think Corporate will be handling everything~ What we HAVE been doing is.....whenever anyone complains, we mutter that if they don't stop complaining.....well.....I'm not actually going to write it here~ :)~

sacBarb said...

Hi, HOoters! J/L here.

Zona Congrats on first. We are still trying to figure out if we are "sound" or not and I'm leaning towards not. ;)

sacBarb said...

Tina Thanks for sharing that. What I hated most about going to the dentist was having shots in the mouth. I would really be upset to have a needle jab in my mouth while eating a sandwich. Yikes! That really sucks!

sacBarb said...

Dianne I sure wish I could have seen Jersey Boys when it was in San Francisco but I don't have anyone to go do that with anymore. I'm glad you enjoyed it. It really looks like a fun one to see plus I love the songs.

sacBarb said...

So, Lynn and Barb and I went to the movies today and saw the Woody Allen movie, "To Rome With Love". We enjoyed it but the best part was before the ads and trailers even started and we were settling down with our snacks. I nearly dumped my Coke out of the drink holder (Barb's quick reflexes caught it) but then Lynn's butt bumped into her own soda and spilled it all over her seat. We then moved one row higher and pretended like we didn't know anything about it.

sacBarb said...

Here is my reBUTTal to that version of the story. I sat down and was getting settled, when all of a sudden J/L dropped into her seat like a lead weight was attached to her ass and the next thing I knew I saw my coke cup flying at me!!!!! I yelled shit and jumped up. The other two say differently but my butt says it did not see a thing.

PS Then a bit later a woman sat in that area, we were waiting to see if anyone do this. Sacbarb told us NO chuckling if someone sat there. J/L and I looked at each other like, oh shit, and started laughing. Pretty sure sat in J/L seat or ass was numb and she left with wet pants.

sacBarb said...

Tina that is a scary thing to happen. Yes there are some very scary people out there. Really don't know if I would classify them as people or humans.

Lynn D

whabbear said...

Tina, what a bizarre story! All I could think of was: Sharp objects deliberately hidden in edibles: It's not just for Halloween anymore!

Michael said...

I'm worried about the Olympics. Everything I read says that London is not prepared.

I hope they catch the lame brains that messed up Deltas food.

No one is looking at the catering company everyone just sees DELTA DELTA DELTA!

I think they should turn them over to a crack team of Deltas employees for their punishment...

whabbear said...

Michael: I was just thinking about Delores and Wanda the other day. Helen Lawson and her entourage (Misty,Pecky Cypress, etc.) had kind of filled the gap left by Delores and Wanda on FB, but Helen's banned now. :(