One of the airline passengers who bit into a sandwich containing a one-inch needle earlier this week has now been put on antiretroviral drugs used for the treatment of HIV, and says the FBI is investigating the incidents aboard four Delta Air Lines flights as a criminal case.
James Tonges said he was placed on the drug Truvada, which has recently been approved by the FDA, following the incident aboard a Delta flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis-St. Paul. Half a dozen sewing needles have now been found in sandwiches on four separate Delta flights, and Tonges, who was sitting in his flight's business elite cabin, was unfortunate to have bitten into one of them.
"It was on the second bite into the sandwich, it actually poked the top of my mouth. It was about one inch long, straight needle," Tonges told "Good Morning America." "Since it punctured the top of my mouth, I had to be put on medication, and we're waiting to see if there's any type of substance on the needle. They're doing their examination right now."
Tonges and another passenger sustained minor injuries after biting into the sandwiches and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)officials found a third needle after confiscating the sandwiches, according to an official report. Dr. Jack A. Drogt, a passenger Tonges had coincidentally met aboard his flight over to Europe, also found a needle in his sandwich.
Federal authorities including the FBI are investigating who had access to the food for flights originating out of Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport bound for the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Drogt also told "Good Morning America" Tuesday that his teenage son, who was travelling from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport on a different flight, was also a victim, and authorities are investigating.
"That was the uncanny thing," Drogt said. "When I landed I spoke to the FBI, then I called my wife to let her know what had happened. She said something happened to our son on a parallel flight from Amsterdam to Atlanta."
The teen would not surrender the needle to authorities, who noted he told them that he planned to use it as evidence in a lawsuit.
Although federal air marshals were aboard the Minneapolis-St. Paul-bound flight, they were not notified of the incident by the crew, authorities said, until deplaning. At that point the air marshals turned the incident over to the FBI, which was working with CBP and local police to investigate how the needles were put in the meat.
Delta airlines released a statement saying it "has taken immediate action with our in-flight caterer at Amsterdam to ensure the safety and quality of the food we provide onboard our aircraft."
The sandwiches were prepared in the kitchen of the Gate Gourmet catering company at Schiphol airport. All such sandwiches have now been removed from flights and replaced with pizzas.
Gate Gourmet operates in 28 countries and serves an average of 9,700 flights every day of the year -- and over 300 million passengers annually.
"You can't check every sandwich that goes aboard a plane," former FBI special agent Brad Garrett told ABC News. "This demonstrates to people who want to do bad things … this is a gaping hole."
In a statement Gate Gourmet said, "We take this matter very seriously. Gate Gourmet immediately launched a full investigation to determine the root cause of this disturbing incident, and we are treating this as a criminal act."