Last week, six sewing needles were found in turkey sandwiches served to business-class passengers on six Delta flights from Amsterdam to four U.S. cities.
Some look at the event as the prank of a disgruntled employee that reveals how even competent security systems can fail every once in a while, but others are using the news as more fodder to argue that the largest hole in aviation security remains that surrounding the catering companies that service the airlines.
It was Gate Gourmet, one of the world's largest airline catering companies, that provided the turkey sandwiches with extra needle. This isn't the first time Gate Gourmet has been the focus of security concerns.
The troubling event reminds me of the story last October that broke when a Gate Gourmet employee at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport blew the whistle on what he said was weak security at the caterer. The anonymous whistleblower took a video that shows several security lapses, including one segment that shows him accessing a catering cart that should be securely locked because it is destined for a future flight. In the video, he places an unauthorized orange juice container into one of the carts. "If I were some crazy lunatic, or Osama bin Laden sympathizer, I can come in and put anything on this plane," the whistleblower told Atlanta's Channel 2 news team at the time.
I could easily see another Gate Gourment employee sticking needles into sandwiches sitting on these carts, or even in the kitchen where they were made.
The Transportation Security Administration won't release specifics about the needle case as it's an ongoing investigation, but did say that the event does not represent a threat to national security.