Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack (and food poisoning?)

A rather alarming report came out today from ESPN regarding food safety issues at a number of sports facilities across the country. ESPN reviewed health department inspection reports for 107 arenas and stadiums that were home to Major League Baseball, National Football League, National Hockey League and National Basketball Association teams in 2009.
Their findings:  At 30 of the venues (28 percent), more than half of the concession stands or restaurants were cited for at least one "critical" or "major" health violation. Some venues in Florida, Pittsburgh and Detroit had 50% or more of its vendors receiving citations. At the Verizon Center in Washington D.C., and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, 100% of the vendors were in violation. (Note to self: might want to eat a pre-game meal at home.)
Keeping hot foods hot, cold foods cold and raw foods separate from cooked and prepared ones are key ingredients to serving safe food. Washing hands before touching food and after ANY interruption in food is critical.  In fact, experts estimate that 50% of all food poisoning cases could be eliminated if folks washed their hands religiously when they handled food.
It’s impossible to know what goes on behind those arena and ballpark counters. So, your best bet is to check out how your home team ranks in food safety based on this report.  Then, use these tips to troubleshoot the food lines.
·       Watch how foods are handled behind the counter. Is the same person who's taking your money touching your food?  If yes… uh oh.   Do vendors use gloves (clean gloves) when they handle food.
·       Look at the cleanliness of the space behind the counters. Tidy or scary?
·       Bite into your food. Is the hot dog hot? How about those chicken tenders, pizza or brats? Return food immediately if it’s lukewarm and ask for a just-cooked item. Some foods sit out at room temperature waiting to be purchased. Those temperatures allow bacteria to multiply as lightening speed. Are burgers pink inside or cooked through? Return undercooked foods or any food you have questions about.
·       Opt for “less prepared” foods. Usually, the more handled an item is, i.e. the more it takes to prepare a dish, the greater the chances for bacteria to enter a food. The less prepared foods may be a safer bet.
·       Wash /wipe your hands with an anti-bacterial sanitizer before you start eating.

Here's hoping all you bring home from your sporting event is a win.