By: Keeba Smith

Ants, bees, flies, rain and wind can be annoying when enjoying a hot dog and soda at the ballpark.  However, all of those pale in comparison to food poisoning.  Every sports fan has visited a concession stand when visiting a stadium to support their favorite team.  Every sports stadium from the pro leagues to the little leagues has concession stands for fans and players but are all of them conscious about food safety.  Health Department inspection reports from all 107 stadiums used by MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL show vast differences in how food is prepared and served.  Every year multiple arenas and stadiums are cited with health code violation.  The violations increase the chance of acquiring a foodborne illness for unwitting customers who often have no other options because many stadiums impose strict regulations on bringing food into the stadium.

When it comes to food safety, inspectors often focus on what could happen instead of what has happened.  When it comes to sports stadiums, the potential risk is great considering the thousands of people served at one time and the challenges stadiums face in following food safety rules.  Indoor and outdoor sport organizations face liability risks from food poisoning incidents resulting from improper food handling at concession stands.

TIPS FOR AVOIDING FOODBORNE ILLNESSES AT YOUR BALLPARK CONCESSION STAND

  • If you find something wrong with your food, do not reorder the same food again. Chances are you will be served the exact same food, or it will come from the same unsafe batch.
  • Always inspect and smell your food prior to eating it and be alarmed by any unfamiliar or unappetizing odors.
  • Always do an inspection of your child’s food before and after they take a bit, looking for any obvious signs of food poisoning.
  • Be careful with raw meat, chicken and fish. Uncooked meats are high risk for transmitting bacteria and parasites.  If you realize that your meat is raw after you bite into it, spit it out right away.

NOTICE YOUR SURROUNDINGS

  • Observe the workers handling your food for open cuts on their hands, symptoms of illness or if they appear unhygienic.
  • Utensils that are dirty or have encrusted food debris should alert you to hygienic issues about the establishment. They must use appropriate utensils when handling food.
  • Hand-washing is paramount to preventing the spread of infections. Food workers should always wash their hands after handling raw foods, after using the restroom, sneezing or coughing, touching counters and garbage bags, touching cash register and money, and touching their face, mouth and hair.  Poor hand-washing is the number one cause of food poisoning.
  • Use of gloves and hand sanitizers offer additional protection but are not a substitute for frequent hand washing.

CONCESSION STAND FOOD SAFETY

Just like every place that serves food to the public, concession stands are required to practice proper food safety and meet their states health requirements.  Here are tips concession stands can use to reduce the risk of food-borne illness.

Management and Purchases

  • Concessions stands must adhere to all local food licensing and permits laws and regulations.
  • All concessions workers should receive training in proper food handling by management.
  • Only purchase food from reputable, good-quality sources.
  • Do not purchase or serve any food past the expiration date.
  • Avoid serving food prepared at home, other than baked goods.

Sanitation

  • Disposable utensils and paper products should be used to reduced cleaning and contamination
  • Do not wash or reuse disposable products
  • Sanitize and wipe down all food preparation surfaces and concession equipment frequently.
  • Do not overfill garbage cans, empty them frequently.

Insect and Vermin

  • Store all food off the floor.
  • All food should be covered, and spills/drips continually wiped down to discourage insects.
  • Keep trash cans covered at all time with tight-fitting lids.

Refrigeration

  • Foods requiring refrigeration to be held at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower until being served.
  • Keep a thermometer in your refrigerator/freezer to ensure fridge is maintained 40 degrees Fahrenheit and freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Perishable food should not sit out of refrigerator longer than two hours.

2017 MLB STADIUM FOOD SAFETY RANKINGS

Which MLB ballpark has the safest food?  Sports Illustrated recently analyzed inspection data ranking the best and worst stadiums based on food safety. (Critical Violations= citations that can spread foodborne illnesses)

Top 5 Best Stadiums

  1. SAFECO FIELD-SEATTLE MARINERS: Seattle set the league standard.  They received 1 critical violation for food held at an improper temperature and 2 minor violations for utensils stored improperly.
  2. FENWAY PARK-BOSTON RED SOX: Received 2 critical violations for dirty ice machine and broken dishwasher.
  3. MINUTE MAID PARK-HOUSTON ASTROS: Most of Houston issues were structural deficiencies like floor tiles in need of fixing and doors that don’t close.  They did receive 2 critical violations for reused popcorn buckers and inaccessible hand sinks.
  4. COORS FIELD-COLORADO ROCKIES: Received 27 critical violations of a major rodent problem but were ranked higher because of the high number of vendors inspected.
  5. CHASE FIELD-ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS: Received a high number of violations due to employee hygiene such as employees not washing hands after using cell phones or handling money before serving food.

Top 5 Worse Stadiums

  1. TROPICANA FIELD TAMPA BAY RAYS: Received 105 critical violations ranging from live insects and black mold inside ice bin making it the worst stadium in the league.
  2. OAKLAND-ALAMEDA COUNTY COLISEUM-OAKLAND ATHLETICS: Received 63 critical violations from signs of vermin and foods kept at unsafe temperatures.
  3. ORIOLE PARK AT CAMDEN YARDS-BALTIMORE ORIOLES: Leads the lead in 264 violations but most of the violations don’t have to do with food itself and are not critical.
  4. DODGER STADIUM-LOS ANGELES DODGERS: Received 60 critical violations dealing with food handling and unclean nonfood surfaces
  5. NATIONALS PARK-WASHINGTON NATIONALS: With the least number of vendors inspected, it received 18 critical violations from improper refrigerator temperature and cold food items.

 

Resources

https://www.sadlersports.com/blog/cooking-trouble/

https://www.si.com/eats/2017/08/08/mlb-food-safety-ballpark-rankings