As business aircraft hop around the world, country to country, even state to state, your cabin can become a breeding ground for bugs. Itsy-bitsy larvae, on and off the plane laying eggs in, on, and around food or trash, or on a drop of spilled sticky juice.
You're thinking that you haven’t seen any bugs on board. You may spray before leaving a country, or you may even be required to decontaminate your aircraft of as you enter or leave a zone with infestation regulations. Of all the unwanted travelers who hitch a ride on board your aircraft, I thought maybe I would just discuss the fruit fly. These tiny little flies (or bugs, whichever name you prefer) are correctly known as Drosophila Melanogaster. Let me introduce you.
The fruit fly comes from a group of insects that have a significant impact on our environment. They have a direct bearing on the world’s agricultural crops. This fly is amazing; it can smell fermenting foods from considerable distances and move in to lay eggs and savor the appealing snacks you are providing them. No snacks on board your aircraft? A single drop of spilled juice or spilled wine that seeped into a corner and whose residue lingers in the carpets can attract a fruit fly and you won’t even know they've arrived.
Although you keep your aircraft spotless, the fruit fly may join your flight without you even being aware of its presence. To live the “good life” it only need a moist area of fermenting stuff. That stuff can be beautifully ripened fruits presented in a fruit basket, or vegetables - something simple like tomatoes you may want to slice fresh in flight. If you attended the NBAA Flight Attendant/Flight Technician conference, you heard about the Mangosteen fruit which used to be outlawed from entering the US because of the fruit fly that lived under the hard crusty leaves at the stem end. They love the organic matter that remains in your cabin drains; they love juices or food residue that might have spilled out of the trash liner edges or the bottom of the can; they love old catering boxes and even empty bottles and beverage cans - not to mention trash bags, cleaning cloths and mops.
These tiny nuisances can quickly multiply in number, and be tough to get rid of once they're around. They lay their eggs - up to 500 at a time - on these moist surfaces. When the larvae hatch, they feed on the same surfaces.
Have you ever uncovered a catering tray, removing the cling wrap or plastic lid only to see an itty-bitty fly resting on the tray. Fruit flies love fruit trays. The fermentation process begins as soon as - if not before -
the fruit or vegetable is cut and prepared. It is imperative you keep fruits covered so those bugs don’t get a whip of what you have for their lunch.
Those of you who kindly share your leftover catering with line service may also be sharing fruit fly larvae. You can swallow fruit flies; they won’t grow in your belly; in fact I'll go so far as to say that your gastric juices will take care of that problem. But, you may feel ill just at the thought of it. As a precaution, place all loose food scraps in a plastic zip bag and then place in the trash . . . especially for those longer flights.
Fruit flies follow fermenting fruit
Finding a fruit fly may not be a result of something you did or didn’t do. They may have hitched an unsuspecting ride into your aircraft on fruits or vegetables you load from the grocery or market. You purchase a box of berries, they are beautiful, although maybe one looks a bit overripe. Guess who's already found that beginning of the fermenting fruit? Can you see the fly and even larvae on the raspberries? Hint…The arrows point to the berries in question.
Fruit flies lay eggs on the skin of very ripe or fermenting fruit. Those bananas you brought on board that are ripening for a great loaf of banana bread or a smoothie may already harbor a new generation of fruit fly larvae and you can’t even see them.. Unrefrigerated fruit, whether it’s on a display tray, in a basket or still on the vine in your garden, may be attracting fruit flies.
If its only one, how can this aircraft ever become infested?
Well, maybe not immediately but it could occur sooner than you think. Fruit flies have particularly fast life cycles; they can go from egg to adult in just 8 days. That means one overly ripe tomato left unused in the galley or one ripening banana can become a small swarm within a week.
Although a female fruit fly adult will only live about a month at best, in that short time she can lay 500 eggs (and we thought rabbits were prolific!). Even if you have removed all of the waste and over ripe foods, they can breed in the slime layer inside a slow-draining sink, or on an old sponge or dirty dishtowel.
Trivia tidbit: Fruit flies are drawn to fruit because its contains sugar. They love anything with sugar. As sugar ferments, it begins to turn into alcohol, which fruit flies love. Un-rinsed soda cans, beer bottles, and oh yes . . . wine!
How can you get sick from an itty-bitty fruit fly?
The main risk they pose for humans is exposure to the diseases and bacteria the flies spread by moving throughout the environment. Fruit flies make an occasional stops checking out any goodies on plates, cutlery, and drinking glasses, so when you eat or drink from these utensils, you’re exposed to the same bacteria the fruit fly has picked up visiting these sites. This is referred to as Cross contamination. I read a recent CDC report that:
“Approximately 48 million people a year get sick as a result of foodborne illness. Due to the overwhelming increase of large-scale food recalls, research has determined that fruit flies are a significant vector of Escherichia coli (E.coli), a dangerous food-borne health hazard to humans in the developed and undeveloped world.”
I am the proactive type, so I suggest that this is a time to err on the side of caution.
Store fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator rather than on the counter, and place back into the chill drawer or refrigerator as soon as you have finished the meal service.
Use the air conditioner whenever possible. Humid interior cabin conditions prolong and further fruit rot, beckoning fruit flies in for a visit . . . don’t forget their sense of smell!
Use an all-purpose cleaner to wipe down food prep areas, including the bottoms of trashcans, to rid the area of decaying organic matter.
Replace kitchen sponges and mop refills regularly as they harbor food residue and mountains of bacteria that is a reason alone to get rid of them.
Make it a habit to clean your garbage can and sink drains. Ask maintenance if you can run some boiling hot water down the aircraft drain safely to remove that organic slime residue. If you are wondering if you have fruit flies living in your drains, here is a quick way to check. Tape some plastic wrap or tape over the drains for a few days to check for fruit flies. If you see adults on the underside of the plastic, you've got some breeding in your drain.
Scrub trash cans at the end of each mission or whenever you see food residue on the exterior or interior of the can.
Create a cleaning schedule while on the aircraft and always alert maintenance if you see any insects on board - especially during the warmer summer months when insects are more prolific.
Do not dispose of produce or scraps loose in your trashcan. Remove all garbage and food trash at the completion of each leg when possible. Secure garage in a tightly sealed bag.
Use a hot soapy solution to clean all counter and surfaces each day at the end of your flight.
Use paper towels in the galley instead of potential breeding grounds found in dish towel
For those of you cooking on board and bringing items like potatoes, onions, and other root vegetables , check the condition of those items frequently. It doesn’t take very long to start getting soft and ripe when held on the aircraft in hot climates during a multi leg -multiday mission.
Just in case you have taken all of these precautions to prevent fruit flies from enjoying a lovely private jet flight across the pond with you, here is one sure fire way to lure them all to a perfect meal and then you will be able to remove them upon landing.
Make a super easy vinegar trap
Fruit flies love vinegar . . . especially a wine vinegar. Pour some vinegar into a container - just a bit of it. Then take a small plastic bag that will fit over the top of that container and securley fasten the bag to the container. Next take a knife or small scissor and cut a very small hole in the center of the bag. With your fingers, push the bag into the container of vinegar - but without the bag touching the fluid. Although fruit flies have an incredible sense of smell, they are truly stupid. Have you heard the old saying, he can’t find his way out of a paper bag? Well, those poor fruit flies will not be able to find their way out of the container of vinegar through the small hole you created.
About Paula Kraft . . .
Paula Kraft is the founding partner of the DaVinci Inflight Training Institute located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and the founder/president of Tastefully Yours Catering, an aviation specific caterer, located in Atlanta, Georgia for over 35 years.
Paula is active with many aviation and catering-related groups including the International Caterers Association, the International Inflight Food Service Association and is a board member of Women in Corporate Aviation. She is the past chair of the NBAA Flight Attendant Committee Caterer’s Working Group for 15 years perfecting unique catering training sessions for NBAA conferences and events. Currently, she serves on the NBAA Flight Attendant Advisory Committee and is a member of the Training and Safety Subcommittee. Paula was a founding member of the Steering committee for the creation of a European Flight Attendant Committee and conference and serves as a subject matter expert to the board of International Standard for Business Aircraft Handlers (IS-BAH).
After founding Tastefully Yours Catering, she has been offering culinary and food safety related training to the general aviation community. With a strong dedication to improving catering safety, risk mitigation and safe food handling, she developed and introduced the concept of “catering safety management systems”. As a certified food safety instructor, Paula offers catering SMS and culinary classes for all aviation professionals.
Paula’s first-hand experience, business acumen, research, and relationships make her an industry expert - one which allows her to share information that will help raise the professional training level for flight attendants today that will reduce the risk of food-related concerns tomorrow.
From Paula . . .
I have coordinated training programs and clinics for NBAA and EBAA conference attendees for over 10 years, created mentoring programs for caterers and flight attendants to broaden their aviation culinary skills, and to assist them in adapting to the unique challenges and constraints found in catering for general aviation. I recognize the need for training and have worked closely with flight departments, flight crews, schedulers and customer service reps at the FBOs to ensure that catering specific training provides information and skills necessary to reduce risk while assisting them in their job duties that include safe food handling, catering security, accurate transmission of food orders, and safe food production, packaging and delivery.
I fell into aviation catering quite by accident. I was the in-house caterer and bakery supplier for Macy’s department stores in Atlanta when catering was ordered for a Macy’s customer which was soon to change my life. After the client enjoyed the catering provided, I was summoned to the client’s corporate office to provide several of the items delivered through Macy’s to the executive dining room. Within a week, I was providing food for the flight department and my first order was for the President of a foreign country (as I was too be told soon after).
So, here I am, some 35 years later, still loving every minute of every day in aviation catering.
BlueSky Business Aviation News | 31st. October 2019 | Issue #531
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