Evaluation of bacteriological quality of aircraft food at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, Kenya
The production of aircraft meals can pose risks of global dimensions. Microbiological hazards are the most prominent risk factors associated with this kind of food production and arise owing to the complexity of the operation in the flight kitchen, long food production chains and onboard services with limited facilities. Food borne diseases constitute a significant cause of reduced economic activity in this sector and are also a growing public health problem worldwide. Regular microbiological testing of food as a part of the quality assurance system of flight kitchen is necessary to ensure the safety of meals. In order to lay a foundation for assessing these high-risk foods, this study sought to evaluate the microbiological quality of meals served on aircraft at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Nairobi. This was a descriptive cross sectional study and was expected to provide an insight on bacteria and their diversity occurring in airline food and thus its hygiene condition. Three hundred and sixty one meals were sampled purposively and conveniently and divided equally into four categories of (i) Starter dishes such as hors deuver, canapes and prawn cocktail-dishes that require a fair amount of handling during preparation and which are served without reheating, (ii) Main courses, mainly meals that are served hot, (iii) cold desserts; and (iv) Snack meals which include sandwiches and tartlets. Isolation of microorganisms was carried out in the laboratory, enumerated and data analysis was carried out using SPSS version 11.5. Frequencies and percentages of the variables were calculated and presented in graphs and tabular form. To examine the relationship among and between the variables, cross tabulations and the i2 test, Pearson correlation coefficient were used. The antibiotic sensitivity profile of the microorganisms was evaluated against 12 antibiotics to shed light into difficulties that could be encountered if there is an infection by the isolated pathogens. In addition, a questionnaire was administered and structured to contain ·demographic chacteristics, assess food safety knowledge, practices and attitude. Statistical significance was set at p<O.05. The results revealed contamination of aircraft food at 85% from all food sampled. Cold meals were more contaminated (68.7%) than hot meals (16.3%). The only pathogenic microorganism isolated was Staphylococcus aureus that accounted for 1.2% of the foods sampled. The bacteria isolated were most sensitive to Kanamycjn and Aztreonam both at 81.8%, while they were resistant to Augmentin and Ampicilin at 81.2% and 84.1% respectively. Food handlers exhibited lapses in personal hygiene such as 87.8% of the food handlers admitting not to washing their hands upon entering the food production area. However with the appropriate controls, such contamination does not pose risk to the travelling consumers as they can be arrested before the meals are consumed. The results of the study will enable caterers to put effective quality control systems in place in order to prevent bacterial contamination of food. In addition, authorities such as Ministry of Public Health will find the study important in enforcing regulations such as compelling caterers of international magnitude to implement food safety systems such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). The information obtained in this study will also be used to streamline training modules to enhance food safety systems for in-flight food producers.