United Airlines failed to address critical food safety issues at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, endangered passengers and retaliated against employees for speaking up, three high-level managers who worked in its catering division allege in lawsuits filed last month.
United Airlines did not address persistent maintenance issues at its catering facility at Newark airport, which allowed the spread of several strains of the bacteria listeria, including the potentially deadly Listeria monocytogenes, the lawsuits say. Further, once the listeria was discovered, they say, United didn't act aggressively to contain it.
Listeria monocytogenes, or L. mono as it's known, is a particularly nasty strain of bacteria that can cause stillbirths in pregnant women and serious health complications for the elderly and those with immune deficiencies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that about 1,600 people get sick from L. mono each year, and about 260 die.
Initial symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea, according to the Mayo Clinic. Listeria can also invade the central nervous system and cause meningitis, or a blood infection. Because it can have a long incubation period — symptoms can take up to 70 days to show up — it can be difficult for people to pinpoint when and how they got sick and directly link it with a specific cause, according to food safety experts.