CHICAGO (CBS)—It’s the middle of Chicago Restaurant Week, but an examination of food inspection reports has found some dining establishments at O’Hare Airport are getting failing grades.
Before taking off on a flight, a traveler’s last meal may be at the airport, and in some cases that could make them sick.
“Getting sick on a plane is no fun at all,” said Kantha Shelke, a food safety specialist.
A database of city health inspections at 130 O’Hare restaurants shows 10 received failing scores during the last half of 2018.
Some of the restaurants on the list of failed inspections include popular chains like Chili’s and Macaroni and favorites from the Lettuce Entertain You company.
“These are big brands,” Shelke said. She called the failures “alarming.”
“I was surprised that they misunderstood and did not understand the fundamentals of running a restaurant,” she said.
The elite United Club at the B-gates, and the members-only Delta Sky Club in Terminal 2 were among five restaurants that failed for having black slimy substances in their ice machines.
Shelke speculated that the substance could be bacteria, yeast or mold. How the substance got into the machines is even more disturbing.
“The worker could have gone to the restroom, not washed their hands and come back and put hand in,” Shelke said.
The total number of food safety violations at O’Hare has varied over the years, but it has tended to rise—from 19 violations in 2010 to a high of 51 in 2016 and a total of 46 for all of last year.
At the international terminal, two popular Chicago eateries—Big Bowl and Wao Bao—failed for having fruit flies. The tiny insects can spread bacteria.
“So now you are taking it to other countries,” Shelke said.
The Skybridge Bar and Restaurant was one of three restaurants warned for having foods in their kitchens that were “not date-marked,” which could lead to spoiled food being served.
In each of these cases, the fixes proved to be easy and were made within a week.
“It means it was very doable and they should have been doing it all along and they should not have been caught,” Shelke said.
CBS 2 reached out to all the restaurants that did not pass inspections.
United and Delta said safety is always a top priority. Both airlines said their lounges passed a follow-up inspection.
None of the other food service providers responded to requests for comment.
The City of Chicago says 15 percent of restaurants failed at O’Hare, which is less than the overall citywide failure rate.
The health department is helping to educate workers to comply with new food safety rules.