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Delta is investigating the spoiled food that led to the emergency landing

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Delta Air Lines was returning to normal food operations for international flights Friday after reports of spoiled food on a flight this week forced a diversion, emergency medical attention and a change in food service for more than 100 flights.

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The ordeal began early Wednesday morning when a flight from Detroit to Amsterdam with 277 passengers on board was diverted to New York after crew members learned that some of the meals served to economy passengers were spoiled. While CBS shared photos of the alleged moldy food from the flight, the airline has not confirmed those photos and said it is investigating what went wrong with the food.

The in-flight service was about a third of the way through, according to Delta spokesman Anthony Black, but it was not known how many people had eaten the food. Medical experts consulted by the flight crew recommended stopping in New York City.

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Emergency medical personnel met Flight 136 at John F. Kennedy International Airport after it landed around 4 a.m. Wednesday to treat passengers; about a dozen people were examined, but no one was taken to the hospital, Delta said. The airline said the flight crew did not eat the food.

“Delta’s Food Safety team has engaged our suppliers to immediately isolate the product and launch a full investigation into the incident,” the airline said in a statement. “This is not the service Delta is known for, and we sincerely apologize to our customers for the inconvenience and delay in their travels.”

On about 75 international flights Wednesday and Thursday, Delta “moved to a pasta service” amid its meal review, Black said.

Airlines use meals that are prepared by outside vendors; hot meals are pre-cooked and either frozen or kept cold before being reheated on the plane.

Black did not name a catering company responsible for the meals on Wednesday’s flight, but said “there are several catering components under review.”

The disruption in service came in the middle of the busy July 4th travel week, when Delta expected to fly about 6 million people. In an interview with CBS Mornings, CEO Ed Bastian said the airline’s crews were ready for the party.

Health experts say airplane food — just like food on the ground — can become contaminated in several ways, including exposure to contaminated water, improper handling or cooking, among others. It may not be heating up properly or it may have been sitting too long. But while airplane food poisoning does happen, it’s not a very common issue.

If travelers had accidentally eaten some mold-contaminated food, it could have been uneventful, says Mark Gendreau, a physician and chief medical officer of Beverly, Addison Gilbert and Anna Jaques hospitals in Massachusetts.

Unless you’re consuming a “massive amount of mold,” he says people with healthy, intact immune systems can handle eating some without a problem.

People can still experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhea within hours if they have symptoms. While rare, you can also develop symptoms a day or two later, including allergic reactions, skin rashes and, in even rarer cases, weakness, fatigue and difficulty breathing, Gendreau added.

Ali A. Khan, a gastroenterologist with Gastro Health in Fairfax, Va., said that for immunocompromised people, however, eating mold can be much more dangerous since the risks of it turning into a major fungal infection are bigger.

You should be able to tell if your meal has been contaminated. Khan said signs of mold include unusual white or black spots, softer than normal texture or bad odors. If you have mold, throw away the whole meal instead of trying to cut off the moldy part, he said. It can be difficult to tell exactly how deep the mold and adjacent bacteria have gone.

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