msnbc.com
updated 4/20/2011 1:47:09 PM ET 2011-04-20T17:47:09

"We've got rats on a m*****f****** plane." OK, that may not be a storyline as enticing as the 2006 horror film "Snakes on a Plane" starring Samuel L. Jackson, but it was a very real problem for Delta Air Lines.

The Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter on April 13 to Richard Anderson, the airline's chief executive, citing violations from an inspection that took place between Jan. 26 and Feb. 2 of a Delta plane. The inspection took place at a Delta hangar near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Among the FDA's findings detailed by John Gridley, district director of the FDA's Atlanta office:

  • Rodent excrement (8-11 pellets) above the right door panel in the forward galley where food is prepared;
  • Excrement (10-20 pellets) above the left door panel in the forward galley where food is prepared;
  • Excrement (9-15 pellets) on the right aisle of the aircraft over seats C3-C7;
  • Excrement (pellets too numerous to count) in three areas in ceiling panels located in the middle cross over galley G2, which is directly over places where food and drinks are stored;
  • Mammalian urine in six areas on ceiling panels located in the middle cross over galley G2.

Lab results confirmed the presence of rat excrement and rodent urine stains in the aircraft, the FDA said in its letter.

Delta took the rodent issue "very seriously," airline spokesperson Ashley Black told Bloomberg News. The carrier grounded the jet and "humanely" caught the animal, she said.

Story: Rats! Another reason to watch your step in New York

“We believe this was an isolated incident and we cooperated with the FDA immediately to resolve it earlier this year,” Black told Bloomberg News. “The health and safety of Delta’s customers and employees are Delta’s top priority.”

In his letter, though, Gridley said the actions won't stop future incidents. "We believe a recurrence is likely without adequate preventive measures in place."

A roof rat is the most likely animal to infest an airplane, Chad Artimovich, president of Atlanta Wildlife Solutions LLC, a pest-control company, told Bloomberg News.

“Once it gets in there and gets established, there’s no reason to leave,” he said.

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