By Martin Rosenbaum
BBC, The Right to Know
Gate Gourmet, the airline catering company at the centre of recent industrial action, has been criticised by food hygiene inspectors.
Gate Gourmet says it has taken steps to deal with the criticisms
Environmental health officers from the London borough of Hillingdon found breaches of food safety laws in the company's operations at Heathrow airport earlier this year, according to documents obtained by the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act.
The company says that points raised by the inspectors have been acted on "promptly and efficiently".
The details are revealed in BBC Radio 4's The Right to Know programme, which assesses the impact of the Freedom of Information Act since it came into force in January 2005.
Frayed chip shovel
An environmental health officer from Hillingdon inspected Gate Gourmet's Heathrow South site in January.
The inspector found that a chef was ladling out chicken pieces without checking their temperature due to the unavailability of a thermometer.
The chef was also using a frayed chip shovel, which could cause food to be contaminated with foreign material.
Materials for the hygienic drying of hands were not available at one wash basin. Some records relating to the blast-chilling of food were incomplete or illegible.
The inspector found several problems with the premises' state of repair, including a mouldy ceiling panel, a burst water pipe, a jammed door and defective flooring which contravened health and safety legislation.
In a statement to the BBC, Gate Gourmet said faulty and missing equipment had now been replaced, staff had been retrained, and defects to the premises had been or were in the process of being rectified.
Gate Gourmet's Heathrow West site was inspected in May this year.
The inspector found that in some places staff were not monitoring temperature controls at critical points. It was unclear how long meals such as prawn noodles were left outside cold storage.
The company said: "The department management have been retrained and reminded of their responsibility to ensure that temperature monitoring and the safe handling of food is part of their job function."
Gate Gourmet's main customers include British Airways and Cathay Pacific.
The Right to Know is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 20:00 UK time on Tuesday, 27 September, and repeated at 17:00 UK time on Sunday, 2 October.