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8 things to know about your in-flight meal
We have heard plenty of calls out there for people to appreciate their food, and we like to think this can apply even to airline food. Actually, especially for airline food because preparing in-flight meals involves a complicated process. How your inflight meals are prepared Recently The Jakarta Post Travel had the opportunity to visit the busy kitchen of ACS Aerofood, which is the caterer for Indonesia’s flag-carrier, Garuda Indonesia. Operating about 160 flights per day, Garuda Indonesia is ACS Aerofood's biggest customer. Of about 30,000 in-flight meals prepared by the caterer every day, around 17,000 goes to the airline. ACS, who only cooks halal food, serves about 90 percent to airlines - domestic and foreign - departing from Jakarta. 1. Safety ACS rejects any raw materials that fail to meet specifications. For fruit, a refractometer is used to measure sugar content. A pineapple for example, should have a brix (sucrose concentration) reading of around 11-17 percent, while for papaya it should be 10-19 percent. Samples of high-protein foods, such as meat, fish and chicken, undergo examination in a micro-lab. Since the process can take 48 hours, the food items are quarantined in a chiller. "Yesterday, we rejected all the poultry from one of our suppliers because the birds had been packed without first being vacuumed; plus they were tied using rubber bands, which we consider to be foreign objects," said ACS' quality assurance manager, Nuryulianti. 2. Cleanliness To ensure raw ingredients such as fruit and vegetables are free from pesticides, residues and unwanted objects, such as insects, they are chopped and soaked in a 50-100 ppm (parts per million) concentration of chlorine. Then they are put onto a conveyor belt while soaking in cold water to freshen them up, and finally they are dried and sorted. They will then be vacuum-packed according to recognized size standards, such as 5 kg for cabbage, and kept in cold storage before being cooked. 3. Meal analysis As an extra precaution against incidents like food poisoning, ACS takes in-flight meal samples, which are analyzed in the micro-lab and then stored in a bank. If the result is Grade A, it means very good. "If it is Grade B, someone probably did not wash his/her hands thoroughly enough while preparing the meal. We immediately send this result to the production team," Nuryulianti said. Grade C means a big mistake has been made, such as accepting a raw ingredient despite its being substandard in quality. 4. Danger zone Maintaining low temperatures is key to ensuring that in-flight meals are safe from bacteria that can cause foodborne illness. Bacteria multiply quickly when the temperature is within the so-called "danger zone" of between 10 and 60 degrees Celsius. Therefore, temperatures for all in-flight meals are kept at less than 8 degrees Celsius when moved inside the aircraft and later heated in the plane's oven at 70 degrees Celcius temperature. 5. Extra meal For each flight, the caterer provides at least five extra in-flight meals just in case they are needed. ACS prepares different meals and snacks for the cabin crew. "The captain and copilot are served different meals, so if one of them gets sick after eating, the other will still be fit to fly the plane," said ACS customer relations officer Nadya Rasjad. 6. Utensils Those flying Garuda's international business class are served meals on china plates, not plastic trays. ACS provides special training on how to serve food attractively on the plates. 7. VVIP ACS also caters for VVIP flights, such as those serving the country’s president and vice president. In-flight meals for VVIP guests are prepared separately with higher safety precautions, and according to menus based on special requests. Freshly made mung bean juice is known as one of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's favorite beverages; indeed, he always asks for a glass of mung bean juice when he flies. 8. Special meals ACS provides special meals for vegetarians, diabetics and children. Garuda passengers who want these special meals should notify the airline when purchasing their tickets, as it is unlikely that they will be readily available on the aircraft. Baby meals, on the other hand, are always available onboard.
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