In-flight transmission of foodborne disease: How can airlines improve?

Andrea Grout (Lead / Corresponding author), Elizabeth M. Speakman

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Food contamination during air travel presents unique risks to those affected. Foodborne pathogens can cause serious illness among all on board, and potentially jeopardize flight safety. These risks are likely to increase with current trends of “densification” and a predicted massive expansion of air travel. While aircraft are being equipped with ever newer designs with a focus on efficiency and comfort, regulations remained largely unmodified in terms of basic hygiene requirements. Strict guidelines for food hygiene exist for on-ground food settings and catering kitchens. There is uncertainty about hygiene standards on board commercial aircraft, and little regulatory oversight of what happens to food in-flight. In two hypothetical scenarios we indicate the potential risks associated with poor food handling practice onboard aircraft, with the ultimate aim of bringing aviation food safety in line with on-ground regulations. Changes in cabin design alongside adequate training in safe food handling have the potential to increase public health protection. We urge a review of existing in-flight hygiene protocols to better direct the development of regulation, prevention, and intervention measures for aviation food safety.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101558
Number of pages6
JournalTravel Medicine and Infectious Disease
Early online date21 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Aircraft
  • Aviation food safety
  • Contamination
  • Densification
  • Epidemiology
  • Food hygiene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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