James Boyle, a British DJ and music producer who goes by the name Breakage, was flying WestJet from Canada to the U.K. when he was served a meal “based solely on carbohydrates and sugar.”
The meal? Potatoes, two ways.
Boyle posted about his experience on Twitter and included a photograph of the carb-filled container.
“I’m not one for being a diva, but when I have a diabetic meal request, the last thing I expect is this,” he wrote.
“Potato wedges with mashed potatoes. Even not being diabetic, how is that a meal?”
Boyle said he was served a similar meal on an earlier trip with WestJet. On that flight, he said he was served a packet of potato chips, a packet of raisins, a banana and a sandwich.
“All of which are extremely dangerous or inedible unless going into hypoglycaemic shock,” he said.
His meal on the way home, however, “took it too far,” he said.
“I don’t know how it’s managed to happen and go unnoticed, but it’s really not cool and very dangerous.”
The company’s initial response to Boyle was less than apologetic.
“We apologize, but we’re working on rebuilding the inflight meal service, and we encourage guests to bring food from home on board if they like,” the company wrote on Twitter.
A few minutes later, the company responded again.
“Thus far, we’ve yet to see the food served on board be a real point of concern for our guests, who are traveling for reasons beyond that,” the company wrote on Twitter.
“However, we will say that our Dreamliner meal service is really something if you ever get a chance to try it.”
Boyle asked the company to take his complaint seriously. He stressed the dangers carbohydrates and sugars can pose to people with diabetes.
Food is “key” in managing diabetes, said Joanne Lewis with Diabetes Canada.
People living with diabetes need to monitor the amount of carbohydrates they eat, Lewis told Global News. The risk of heart attack and stroke can be greatly reduced by adopting “diabetes-friendly eating habits,” like choosing lean animal proteins and vegetable proteins and avoiding refined and processed foods, she said.
A meal of potatoes doesn’t necessarily fit into those recommendations.
The box of carbs was likely just an error on WestJet’s part, said Kate Comeau, a dietitian and spokesperson for Dieticians of Canada, albeit a “dangerous” one, as Boyle described it.
“I find it impossible to believe that a person responsible for food service would qualify this as a meal, let alone one suitable for a person with diabetes,” she said.
While there isn’t “one set” of dietary rules for people with diabetes, Comeau said that replacing high-glycemic-index foods, like potatoes, with other, lower-glycemic choices is a blanket recommendation.
“We would also typically recommend a meal include a lean protein source, low-glycemic index vegetables and fruit and whole grains,” she said, adding: “Much like the recommendations we give to the general population.”
WestJet changed its tune on Twitter the next day, telling Boyle they “missed the mark.”
In a statement to Global News, company spokesperson Morgan Bell said they are investigating what led to the meal being served to Boyle.
“This is not the level of service or onboard experience we strive to deliver and we sincerely apologize for our initial response to this guest’s serious concerns,” Bell wrote.
“We take the safety of all guests and crew seriously and are investigating the situation with our catering team and suppliers to determine what occurred and how this can be avoided in the future.”
As for Boyle, he’s not convinced the situation is a “one-off.”
“I’m used to in-flight food being poor quality, but to serve someone with an auto-immune disease that’s largely based around diet the exact food that is most dangerous to them, is totally inexcusable and shameful to say the least,” he said.
— With files from Global News’ Leslie Young