Airlines are being reminded about hygiene regulations after it has been revealed many reuse plastic knives and forks.
Air New Zealand and other airlines are reusing plastic cutlery up to 10 times before throwing it away - despite each sealed cutlery package looking new to travellers.
A supplier says Qantas' plastic spoons, forks and knives are being used up to 30 times - a figure disputed by the airline, the New Zealand Herald reports.
The airline says its utensils could be used at least three times, or "quite a few more times", depending on how much it had deteriorated.
Air New Zealand says its plastic utensils, including cutlery, trays, bowls, cups and plates, are sorted by staff for cleaning and reuse following international flights.
Spokesman Mark Street says items used on international services cannot be recycled because of international quarantine and biosecurity laws, so the practice has environmental benefits.
The items are washed by the airline's catering supplier in a commercial dishwasher and have a "lifecycle of around 10 uses," he says.
Items are reused until they are found to be damaged or marked.
Food Safety Authority adviser Penny Tregear says there is nothing to stop businesses reusing disposable cutlery, but it is designed to be disposed of after use.
"Hygiene regulations have specifics about cleaning cutlery at a temperature of 60 degrees and a rinse temperature of 77 degrees," says Tregear.
And the Food Safety Authority say if that is not done there are health risks.
"Potentially you could have some bacterial growth within the crockery utensils," says Tregear.
The airlines are not alone and many hospitals and boarding
schools also reuse plastic cutlery.
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