Take me out to the ball game: Food safety in a sports stadium

Baseball fans around the world love to sit back with some snacks — hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, fried grasshoppers (if you live in Seattle) — while they cheer on their favorite team at the city baseball stadium.

Like all food service establishments, baseball stadiums need stringent food safety practices to keep sports fans watching the game and not puking in the bathroom.

Keeping an eye on stadiums, Sports Illustrated recently published a ranking of 28 U.S. baseball stadiums with the highest and lowest numbers of food safety infractions. The magazine analyzed public inspection data from recent inspections to come up with its list.

Which stadium should you feel most comfortable eating your giant soft pretzel in? According to Sports Illustrated, it’s Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners. Yes, the same place where earlier this year you could crunch down on fried bugs has the fewest violations, with only five total, and only one categorized as “critical.”

Safeco Field was followed by Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox; Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros; and Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies.

Who ranked lowest? Sorry Florida, it was Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays. The field had a total of 241 violations, 105 of them critical. The stadium has improved from earlier reports — an ESPN report from 2010 found that every single food stand inspected had at least one critical violation, but now only about half of them do.

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks (that have been prepared and stored in a safe manner)

From rodents to roaches, food stalls run into all sorts of obstacles when they try to sell snacks safely.

Unclean surfaces and equipment were frequently noted. One observed problem was the presence of live insects and black mold accumulating in an ice bin. Sanitation measurement testing equipment can help prevent un-cleanliness from reaching that point, and the lack of such equipment was noted as a common violation in some stadiums.

Inaccessible hand sinks, or sinks with no hot water or soap, comprised a surprising number of recorded violations.

Food storage temperatures were another concern. Hot food needs to be kept hot, and cold food needs to be kept cold. Cold food should be kept at 40°F or below.

Employees also need to be trained on and held accountable for how to handle food, like not handling cash or phones and then food without washing hands in between. (Money is quite dirty.) They should also be able to answer questions on basic food safety practices — sometimes inspectors will ask.

The worst food prep violation covered in the report? Well, this may be subjective, but this blog writer casts their vote for food prep “carried out on top of a trash receptacle.” No thanks!

Neogen offers comprehensive food safety solutions, including sanitation verification, food allergen tests, pathogen tests and more. Click here for more information.

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