While other baseball blogs are focused on trivialities such as the looming trade deadline, we at FishStripes are tackling the subjects that really matter. Like food.
ESPN has released a complete list of pro sports stadium vendor health inspection summaries, and Sun Life Stadium didn't fare so well. In fact, the Marlins current home was the third-worst stadium in the nation as far as health inspection violations go.
Sun Life Stadium:
Miami Dolphins, Florida Marlins
Vendors with critical violations: 93%
Inspection report excerpt: In June 2009, an employee complained anonymously that small insects and other debris were blended into frozen alcoholic beverages at a stand where equipment wasn't being cleaned. When inspectors checked, they issued a critical violation for a buildup of slime inside the frozen drinks machine.
If you were wondering why that Sun Life frozen margarita cost a whopping $16, now you know. It's the price one must pay for all the extra nutrients bugs and slime build-up provide. Consider it an "algae boost" à la Jamba Juice.
Ninety-three percent of the vendors at Sun Life Stadium had major violations of health requirements at the most recent inspection. You should feel warm and fuzzy inside about that chicken finger basket and bucket of popcorn you enjoyed on Super Saturday.
I can't say my jaw dropped when I read the report. I've had a small amount of experience with food service at SLS, since Centerplate (which has the concessions contract) allows non-profit organizations to raise money for good causes by working concession stands. I was roped into had the pleasure of volunteering last season in support of a worthy cause.
My overall experience with Centerplate (then Boston Culinary Group) was good, other than being verbally abused by beefy, angry women upon check-in, but it's not surprising that the health department found a few causes for concern.
Each stand has a supervisor to make sure safety guidelines are followed, but their priorities seemed a bit skewed. For instance, workers were shouted at for failing to properly tuck in that hideous floral-print creation they are required to wear, but when I dispensed soda into a cup and pointed out the dozens of ants floating in it, the stand supervisor shrugged and said, "Oh, yeah. You have to let the spouts run until the bugs stop coming out."
Apparently an improperly tucked shirt is much greater health risk than insects crawling around in the machine that dispenses customers' beverages. Tasty!
After my experience working that homestand, I am slightly wary of concessions. Especially when the workers appear to be completely clueless, like a dude FishStripes ran into last month during the Rangers series. Craig ordered nachos, and the awkward teen disappeared into the back and returned with a bowl of plain tortilla chips. Upon seeing our quizzical looks, the young man paused, stared blankly at the chips for a moment, then said, "Ohhhh... did you want cheese on them?"
Suffice it to say, if he isn't aware that cheese is one of the two primary ingredients in nachos, he can't be counted on to recall the healthy (and legal) temperature at which to cook your hot dog.
While these health inspection violations need not cause mass panic or a boycott of stadium food, they do call into question the safety of consuming that $6 stadium dog. If you're both hungry and a germaphobe, one tip is to stick to menu items that come into the stadium factory sealed (peanuts, cracker jack, frozen lemonade, Edy's ice cream pints and bottled beverages). Those are the safer bet if you're worried about foodborne illnesses.
Then again, it's not as though stadium food has any nutritional integrity to begin with. You know what's in a hot dog, right? If we're willing to put that in our bodies, what's a little extra bacteria?