Food Safety Expert: Dude, Airplane Ice Is Gnarly

People will board airplanes in droves this week, heading to visit family around the country. While on board, they will be handed pretzels, Sprite, tiny cans of tomato juice to go with their tiny bottles of vodka, and depending on the length of the trip, the odd in-flight meal. CNBC spoke with food safety experts about how to avoid ralphing up your Thanksgiving dinner because you had some bad shrimp while soaring above the Catskills, and one such expert had what was, for me, a pretty surprising suggestion. I'll paraphrase, for dramatic effect:

"What, airplane ice? Are you out of your freakin' mind? Airplane ice is a shitshow."

Melvin Kramer, a food safety expert with the EHA Consulting Group, was both more succinct and less dramatic: "I do not use ice on a plane... I find the flight attendants almost wash their hands in the ice." That might sound weird, but the CNBC piece also points out that food safety training can be less rigorous for flight attendants than one might hope, and that as a result, hands may not always be freshly washed or gloved when ice is being scooped and drinks poured. And as bacteria can survive in ice, that's what you might call "real damn gnarly."

The other items on the list range from "wow, really?" to "yeah, that tracks": Dairy (susceptible to spoilage); deli meat (lack of temperature regulation, which can lead to listeria); raw fruits and vegetables, especially melon (just read the article for that one); rice (needs to be reheated to 165 degrees, and cooking thermometers aren't commonplace on airplanes); and seafood (yeah, no shit.)