Please Don’t Take Me Out to the Ball Park

Isn’t it part of the experience of going to a baseball, football or basketball game to eat hot dogs and nachos and drink beers? What about souvenirs? Foam finger? A baseball hat? Food poisoning?

What?!

You heard me right – food poisoning is becoming the latest trend at professional sporting venues. ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” reviewed health department inspection reports for food and beverage outlets at all 107 North American arenas and stadiums that were home to Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Hockey League and National Basketball Association teams in 2009. Here are some of the results:

“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.

Some violations included mold in ice machines at six stands at Miller Park in Milwaukee. A cockroach crawling over a soda dispenser in a private club at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh. Food service workers repeatedly ignoring orders to wash their hands at a stand at Detroit’s Ford Field.

Some venues reported 100% of the food stalls having major health violations! At Tropicana Field — home of the Tampa Bay Rays — every one of the stadium’s 47 food and drink outlets inspected incurred a critical violation during inspections within the past year, according to Florida inspection reports. Violations include food residue in a cooler, toxic chemicals stored too close to food preparation areas, “slime” in the ice machines and thermometers not readily visible to measure the temperature of hot foods.” You can read the entire article here.

Food poisoning really grosses me out. I don’t get queasy around blood or crazy foods (I grew up eating tongue and tripe!). But when it comes to food poisoning I lose it. I have had food poisoning a few times and I drive myself crazy trying to think of what caused it. Some of the worst food poisoning I got was from a Veggie Pita at Pita Pit. You wouldn’t think to be worried about a veggie pita! Luckily I eat most of my food at home, so I know what goes into my meals and I know the chef (me) washed her hands! But now, we can’t even eat lettuce without getting sick!

The thing that really pisses me off about the sport arena violations is that they charge you an arm and a leg and don’t let you bring your own food into the stadium. The least they can do is wash their hands, right? I don’t go to many ball games, and usually just stick to drinking beer when I do. The stadiums near us had the following results:

AT&T Park: 4% of vendors had violations. Inspectors found a few instances of food being kept at improper temperatures.
Candlestick Park: 13% of vendors had violations. Inspectors found one location with no hot water, posing a sanitary threat.
ARCO Arena: 25%. Inspectors found some shrimp pasta salad at 52 degrees, which was too warm.

There is a map in the article where you can see how your local venues stack up.

I kind of want to walk into a stadium with an ice chest full of homemade food.  When the security guard tries to stop me, I would say, “Once you can show me a clean health inspection report, I will gladly leave my food at home.” I think Michael Pollan would be proud of me for that! Talk about voting with your fork!

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One thought on “Please Don’t Take Me Out to the Ball Park

  1. […] 30, 2010 Remember the other day when I wrote about the gross conditions at professional sports venues? Well guess what I did last night? I went to a baseball […]

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