ESPN’s Paula Lavigne examined 2009 health department inspections from the 107 stadiums that host MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL games in the United States and Canada. The resulting report may keep you from indulging in your favorite ballpark food.
At 30 of the venues (28 percent), more than half of the concession stands or restaurants had been cited for at least one “critical” or “major” health violation. Such violations pose a risk for foodborne illnesses that can make someone sick, or, in extreme cases, become fatal.
Photo by Katie Spence via Flickr
An interactive map lets you see the venues based on the number of violations there; rolling your mouse over the location tells you the percentage of vendors found in violation and gives some information about the kinds of violations that were found.
The same information, compiled by Lavigne and Producer Lindsay Rovegno, is also available in a text format broken down by state.
Many of the excerpts cite instances in which food was not being kept at appropriate temperatures and a few are related to pests, but there are a few more unusual examples:
- At the Jobing.com Arena, where the Phoenix Coyotes play, “inspectors spotted an employee scooping ice with his bare hands instead of using scoops.”
- At Dodger Stadium, there was mold growing inside an ice machine.
- At Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium and at the Pepsi Center in Denver, inspectors found flies in bottles of liquor.
- At Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions, inspectors found an employee’s half-eaten hamburger in a warming unit.
Another interesting note: Food inspectors aren’t always visiting unannounced nor are they always visiting when concessions are open. In Chicago, inspections are done when the stadiums are empty and no workers are preparing or serving food. At Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium, inspectors must “submit a list of employees’ names and make an appointment a few days in advance.”
Reporters who have a major sports venue in their community might want to see how it stacks up against others, what kinds of violations have been found and do some further reporting.
Resources for covering food safety
- Lifting the shroud: Using multiple-cause-of-death data
- FDA Reform: The Time Has Come (Nancy Donley presentation)
- Why Is It So Difficult to Prevent Foodborne Illnesses? (Michael Doyle presentation)
- Reporting on the intersection of health and the environment
- Fatal Food: A study of illness outbreaks
- Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy
- Outbreak Alert! Database
- Center for Food Safety and Security Systems