While Cardinals fans ordered hot dogs and ice-cold beers from a concession stand down the first base line of Busch Stadium late in the 2011 season, inspectors discovered roaches crawling in between kitchen equipment. Across the field in the Coca Cola Rooftop Deck, fans dined on hot dogs that inspectors found were being stored at unsafe temperatures -- 25 degrees less than what the United States Department of Agriculture deems safe to serve.
Nearly 30% of the concession stands within Busch had at least one critical violation, according to 2011 inspection reports from the City of St. Louis. Inspectors found 15 critical violations at the 42 stands inside Busch Stadium. That number is triple what it was in 2009 when inspectors found just five critical violations.
The roaches and hot dogs were just two violations found during health inspections of Busch Stadium’s concession stands in 2011. Seven stands did not have soap, towels or access to their sinks, inspectors found. Three others incurred critical violations because their refrigerators and freezers were at dangerously hot temperatures. Since 2010, three concession stands have received violations for their sanitizer containing unsafe amounts of chemicals.
The number of critical violations has dramatically increased since 2009 when ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” investigated every stadium’s food safety. In 2009 there were just five critical violations -- 12% of the concession stands at Busch. The report specifically cited a lack of hand towels at multiple hand-washing sink.
However, since that initial report was released, the inspection ratings of the concession stands in Busch Stadium have gotten much worse. In 2010, that percentage of concession stands with critical violations jumped to 24% and then to 29% in 2011.
ESPN’s original investigation revealed that Busch Stadium was one of the top stadiums for food safety in 2009, but not anymore, showed the latest inspection reports. Instead of improving in its top-tier health safety, the number of critical violations has tripled.
Worker hygiene continues to be the most common violation. Not only did some of the stands not have soap or hand towels, but some sinks weren’t even accessible, according to the health inspection reports. These specific hygiene violations, like the total number of violations, more than tripled since 2009.
Sanitizer recently emerged as a problem within the concession stands at Busch. Sanitizers are used for food-contact services like dishes, utensils, counters, eating tables and inside refrigerators. Since the 2010 season inspectors have cited three different violations that had to do with sanitizer. In one violation the sanitizer was being stored incorrectly: open, uncovered and above a sink. In the other two violations the sanitizer was found to be too strong (over 400 parts per million).
“Remember these are chemicals so [they] could be toxic at the right dose,” said Angela Fraser, an associate professor and food safety specialist at Clemson University. “The more one is exposed to higher dose[s] the more likely they could get sick.”
Refrigerators, freezers and coolers were also cited three times during 2011 for being too hot to safely hold food. Inspectors found one refrigerator to be 52°F, twelve degrees more than what the United States Department of Agriculture deems safe. Bacteria begin to grow rapidly above 40 degrees and the USDA calls the temperature range between 40-140°F the “Danger Zone.”
Health inspections from Busch for the 2012 baseball season are not yet on the City of St. Louis’ website. An error message is displayed, stating that “the resource you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.”
Tanner Walters is a junior at the Principia Upper School in Town & Country and aspires to be a professional journalist.