Got a flight returning from outside the U.S. with leftover non-packaged food items such as dairy products, beef, fruits and vegetables?
Be aware that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has some special requirements regarding the disposal of such garbage.
According to Laura Everington at Universal Weather & Aviation, regardless of the point of entry into the U.S., federal regulations require disposal of these items in special bags and handling by USDA-approved services or individuals for subsequent incineration.
“The USDA doesn’t allow just anyone to do this,” said Everington. But she pointed out that the procedure can differ from one point of entry to another. At some airports, an FBO might be an approved “de-caterer.” At others, a customs agent or USDA agent might be the one to provide the bag, but the crew is expected to take it to a nearby dumpster specifically designated for such refuse. Some catering services are authorized by the USDA to handle de-catering of arriving international flights. FBOs can typically arrange in advance for de-catering, and some are authorized de-caterers.
While de-catering is a USDA matter, it is often a customs agent who will handle those duties. At Fort Lauderdale International Airport, the crew is expected to bag any international refuse from the galley or cabin and carry it to a dumpster located adjacent to the customs office.
Some Canadian airports have USDA-approved agents who can take care of de-catering. This can be particularly useful if the port of entry in the U.S. is an airport where de-catering is not available. Everington said an FBO in Gander or Goose Bay can handle the de-catering and notify customs and agriculture in the U.S.
For those unsure whether de-catering is available, Universal, as well as other ground handling specialists, can provide lists of approved de-catering agents.