A picture of a lizard in the meal tray of a flyer purportedly on one of Air India's flights was doing the rounds on social media and also left the Civil Aviation Minister fuming but the airline termed it "baseless" and a "mischievous propaganda" against it.
At the same time, the airline "reassured" all its customers that it takes utmost care in terms of maintaining quality of its onboard food services.
The incident reportedly took place last Thursday in the Air India flight from Delhi to London.
"This has reference to a report in the media, including on the social media, that a passenger had found a lizard in the meal tray on board AI-111 (Delhi-London) of 11 June, with photograph attached," the airline said.
Air India has investigated the "incident" and has found it to be false and baseless, the airline said in a statement.
No such complaint by any passenger has been received on board the flight or at the Air India office in London, it said.
"Taking a serious view of the attempt to tarnish its reputation, Air India is investigating the source of the mischievous propaganda on the lizard in meal tray subject," the airline said in another statement late evening.
In the meanwhile, Air India would like to reassure its passengers and the media that it takes the utmost care in the choice, quality, hygiene and safety in its service of meals on board all its flights, the statement said.
Air India said that it uplifts meals for flights from reputed 5-star caterers who also provide catering services to several other international airlines, including some members of Star Alliance, of which the airline is a member.
The caterers are selected after a stringent technical evaluation in terms of their infrastructure, capabilities, hygiene and safety certifications and other regulatory clearances etc, it said.
"These caterers are HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points ) certified and comply with all hygiene, safety and security measures while preparing meals.
"Air India caterers follow international hygiene norms under the IFSA (International Flight Service Association) food safety guidelines," it said.
However, before Air India issued a denial, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said the "issue" is serious and Air India was not expected to serve lizard to its passengers.
"That's also a serious thing. Air India is not expected to serve lizard neither the cooks are expected to cook lizards," Raju told a TV channel.