Food hygiene and safety at the lounges of British Airways catered by BaxterStorey has been rated 2 out of 5 — considered a poor score — by the London Borough of Hillingdon, supposedly resulting in the lounges placing in the bottom ten percent of all food establishments in England, which includes hamburger vans and kebab shops.
The official report lists the reasons and issues, which include but are apparently not limited to the following:
- Out of Date Ingredients Used: Eggs and quince beyond their safe use-by date were being served to passengers
- Meat Stored at Room Temperature: Ham sandwiches and cooked ham left at 16° Celsius or 61° Fahrenheit — the maximum safe temperature is 8° Celsius or 46° Fahrenheit
- Hot Food Not Hot Enough: sausages and scrambled eggs left at 50° Celsius or 122° Fahrenheit — the minimum safe temperature is 63° Celsius or 145° Fahrenheit
- Kitchen Dirty: Seven separate areas were found to be so dirty they needed an immediate thorough cleaning
- Cross Contamination of Food: A member of the staff handled raw salmon, then immediately performed other kitchen duties without removing his or her gloves or washing his or her hands, risking cross-contamination
- No Training Records Available: Compass Group did not pass on their training records to BaxterStorey; BaxterStorey had no record of training performed since it replaced Compass Group, rendering BaxterStorey unable to hand any record of compliance with training standards to the inspector
- Risk of Access by Rats, Mice and Insects: A long gap in a kitchen back door required immediate filling to minimize pest entry points
When BaxterStorey successfully replaced Restaurant Associates — a division of Compass Group — in terms of supplying the catering to the Concorde Room, First Class and Galleries lounges operated by British Airways at Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport in London in May earlier this year, FlyerTalk members gave mixed reviews…
…but little did those FlyerTalk members who criticized the quality of the food realize that their comments and experiences roughly reflect — in apparent agreement — the official findings of a government agency.
Executives at BaxterStorey responded with this official statement:
“BaxterStorey are very disappointed with the results of the audit by Hillingdon Council of the British Airways First Class and Concorde kitchen. We would like to acknowledge that a score of 2 is not acceptable to us and we apologise to our customers and British Airways for the management failures that contributed to this score.
“The inspection took place on the 29th July 2013. The full report was received by BaxterStorey on the 3rd September 2013 and subsequently posted on the FSA website. We had already taken immediate remedial action based on the points highlighted verbally during the inspection of July 29th. All specific management failings were rectified immediately and we continue to monitor our performance rigorously.
“BaxterStorey and British Airways have been working on a plan to renovate the lounge kitchens to ensure we can deliver a product to meet the high standards required by both companies and to cope with increasing demand. This refurbishment programme commenced on Monday 23rd September with the extensive renovation of the First and Concorde lounge kitchen including upgraded storage facilities and new equipment. This phase of the programme will be complete by the end of October 2013.
“We are investing considerable resources in training and development and are grateful to our teams in the lounges for their support and enthusiasm. A substantial investment in craft skill recruitment was already underway at the time of the audit and this is near completion.
“We have actively invited Hillingdon Council to return and re-audit the facilities and are awaiting a response.
“Our teams continue to work tirelessly with British Airways to improve services within the contract and believe that with continuous training, inspection, audit and a program of refurbishment, we will achieve the very high standards we demand as a business.
“We are very proud to be working with BA and we are determined to make sure our service, performance and management are exemplary throughout.”
While the response is appreciated by FlyerTalk members in general, some FlyerTalk members criticize the statement, claiming that it added no further clarity as to the reasons for the unacceptably poor rating; while others are skeptical that the quality of the food will improve significantly — even if the safety of the food increases substantially.
Airport lounges are typically patronized by customers who pay for expensive airfares or club memberships and expect high quality in return for their money. To serve food which is substandard in terms of safety and hygiene — no matter who may be the target clientele and no matter where the food may be served — is inexcusable, unacceptable and dangerous, in my opinion.
While you may be well advised to avoid the food offerings at the lounges operated by British Airways in Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport until the food hygiene and safety complies to the satisfaction of the council of the London Borough of Hillingdon, it does bring up the question of food safety at other airport — and perhaps hotel — lounges around the world. Would you be more hesitant to consume food offered in a lounge as a result — or is this is most likely an isolated case where you will continue to trust the safety and hygiene of the food offered in lounges? Have you even became ill as the result of consuming food served in a lounge?
What are your thoughts?