Cape Town -130130. Air Chefs loading food onto an SAA plane at Cape Town International Airport. Photo: Jason Boud

Cape Town - The SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) is demanding that embattled national airline carrier SAA donate leftover food to the needy.

SAA has recently come under fire over the dumping of more than 700kg food, raising the question of the fate of unused foods on airlines.

SAA attributed the wasted foods to ordering too much, fraud, pilfering and inadequate stock control. The food used to go to charities, but the practice has stopped, due to unions demanding transparency in the selection of charities.

“Our call for transparency cannot be used as justification for the airline not to donate leftover food,” said Satawu spokesman Vincent Masoga.

Masoga said SAA was not being clear to all stakeholders concerned about the reasons certain charities were chosen over other charities.

“We were worried that sometimes they donate to individuals to gain popularity or political growth,” he said.

According to SAA, their food provider, Air Chefs, produced 22 000 meals a day and catered for 125 flights.

“Overall, food is ordered based on estimated volumes for a week, and adjusted on a daily basis based on the latest information,” said SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali.

Air Chefs had moved to an electronic estimation system which should make the food ordering and production process more accurate.

“Depending on the type and quality, unused food is donated to local children’s homes in line with Air Chefs corporate social investment initiatives,” he said.

Food remaining after a flight was subjected to very strict quality checks because food was classified as a high-risk product that could not be donated or reused in any way.

Earlier this week, the DA announced it would request that the executives of Air Chefs appear before Parliament to account for the wastage of R5 million in food per month.

“This is just the food that is left over in the kitchens after the meals have been prepared and as far as we know the food is simply dumped,” said Natasha Michael, DA spokeswoman on Public Enterprises.

The party had contacted the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises, Holmes Maluleka, to request that Air Chefs CEO Alison Crooks appear before the committee to report back to Parliament on the steps it would take to ensure that surplus food is not wasted.

“Such wastage in a country where an estimated 3.8 million children go to bed hungry every night is inexcusable,” she said.

Rival domestic carrier British Airways have relied on a system of predicting how much food is usually ordered on board their flights.

“We recently established an in-house food company, Food Directions. This helps us control the amount of food a lot better,” said Shaun Pozyn of Comair.

Although food dumping still occurs, Pozyn insists it is not a large proportion.

Kulula airlines, also under Comair, followed a similar system.

“We’re lucky with Kulula because we work with a pay-as-you-go system, and don’t have pre-prepared foods,” said Pozyn.

“Very little (food) is disposed, and as much as we may wish to give the surplus away, we cannot. Its safer to dump the food than risk poisoning people.”

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Cape Argus