Stadium foods are expensive and full of excess calories, but they also have other lurking concerns. ESPN reviewed the health department inspection reports for concession stands at all 107 North American arenas that house Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Hockey League and National Basketball Association teams. They found that 28 percent of food sellers are cited for “major” or “critical” violations.
Examples of the violations include mold in the ice machines at stands in Milwaukee’s Miller Park, employees who didn’t wash their hands at Detroit’s Ford Field, and cockroaches on a soda dispenser at Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena. Violations like these can lead to food-borne illnesses, such as salmonella and e. coli.
“Based on comparisons of the data I’ve been able to find on restaurants in general, is substantially higher than I would have expected,” said Dr. Robert Buchanan, director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Food Safety and Security Systems. “Certainly, if you have a high rate of facilities within a stadium coming up with critical deficiencies, that to me strikes of systemic errors in either management of the stadium or in the infrastructure of the stadium, and both of them need to be corrected.”
Bob Pascal, a senior vice president with Centerplate concessions, said that the health inspection reports simply show what improvements need to be made. He said the real red flag is for facilities that have flat-out failed inspections or are shut down. Other concession representatives said that the reports exaggerate threats, and that many violations do not pose real health risks to customers.