A recent report in Sports Illustrated explored which Major League Baseball stadiums had the safest food and revealed some surprising things happening at the ballparks. By analyzing recent inspection data, the publication exposed some big food safety concerns, such as rodent droppings in kitchens, expired food, employees not washing their hands, and food stored at the wrong temperatures.
“Consumers have a right to be concerned about some of the food that they are eating and purchasing in many of these stadiums,” says Robert L. Buchanan, a professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science and Center for Food Safety and Security Systems at the University of Maryland. “If I was a vendor or stadium owner, heaven help you if you have a large outbreak—the number of people that could be impacted could run in the thousands.”
On any given game day, stadiums sell tens of thousands of hot dogs, hamburgers, nachos, brats, cotton candy, plus beer and soda, and it’s all done in a relatively short period of time. And being that it’s done by part-time workers (many of them without much experience in food preparation), in cramped conditions and often with very little sink space or automatic washers available, it’s no wonder that violations occur.
“Safe food handling practices should be used by people preparing food no matter where the venue is,” says Tamika Sims, PhD, director of food technology communications at the International Food Information Council. “Cleaning hands, surfaces, and utensils, avoiding cross-contamination, cooking food to proper temperatures, and storing food correctly are all key at sporting venues and beyond.”
Up to the Challenge
Dan Gallery V, president of Gallery carts, a manufacturer of carts, kiosks, and portables located in numerous NFL stadiums and hockey arenas across the country, says food safety, and the safety of the patrons is the number one concern of food service providers at sporting venues, but challenges exist.
“One of the more difficult ones is being able to offer great food all over a stadium. When a venue is being designed, there is constant discussion about how a concession stand can support a fleet of mobile carts,” he says. “While there are many different ways to transport food long distances, it becomes more difficult in a venue where you have multiple levels and the carts are spread out across miles of concourses.”
About Keith Loria
A graduate of the University of Miami, Keith Loria is an award-winning journalist who has been writing for major newspapers and magazines for close to 20 years, on topics as diverse as food, sports, business, theater, and government. He started his career with the Associated Press and has held high editorial positions at Rinkside, BCA Insider, and Soap Opera Digest. Reach him at email@example.com.