Make me sick in the ball park

If you have a sensitive stomach, you might not want to read any further. At thirty (or 28 percent) of the 107 U.S. venues used by the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL, more than half of the concession stands have been cited for at least one critical or major health violation, according to a new ESPN study.

ESPN totaled each arena’s percentage of critical violations. This includes offenses that can pose a serious risk for foodborne illness, such as incorrect temperature, cross-contamination, poor hygiene, and rodent and insect contamination.

Florida’s stadiums were found to be among the worst offenders – all of their arenas had over 65 percent of their vendors in violation. But to find one of the worst venues in the country, look no further than the nation’s capital. Every single food vendor in Washington D.C.’s Verizon Center received at least one citation.

Chicago’s stadiums have the best records with three of its four stadiums receiving no critical violations; however, the city examines the arenas on non-game days, when food isn’t being prepared and workers are not present.

ESPN points out that even though most local health departments use a variation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration food code; slight differences exist making it difficult to compare venues.

The Huffington Post reports some of the (grossest) highlights:

  • Tropicana Field, Tampa Bay: Several violations addressed dirty countertops, utensils and equipment. Although every report indicated a critical violation, all vendors met basic inspection standards to keep operating.
  • Madison Square Garden, NYC: At one stand, inspectors found “53 mouse excreta” (38 on top of a metal box underneath the cash registers in the front food-prep/service area and 15 on top of a carbonated-beverage dispensing unit).
  • RBC Center, Raleigh: Inspectors cited one vendor after watching employees handle raw, breaded chicken while loading fryers and then handling cooked food without changing gloves or washing hands. The employees placed cooked chicken back in the same container used to pre-portion raw chicken before cooking.
  • AT&T Center, San Antonio: Inspectors found 18 pounds of hot dogs that had expired more than 10 days prior.
  • US Airways Center, Phoenix: One location faced possible closure over pest problems after inspectors in December found mouse droppings and, upon reinspection, found “dozens of flies and a live roach” in the dish room.

To see how your state’s stadiums fared, click here.

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