A food safety manager who publicly complained about health code violations at Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums has been fired.
The former Aramark employee, Jon Costa, shared with ESPN a copy of a letter he said the food service company sent him on March 17 saying he was fired “for cause,” including violating the company’s media policy by taking his concerns public.
The letter also said Costa “failed to take prompt action to address food safety issues” despite support from his managers and hampered Aramark’s relationship with the Kansas City Health Department.
Costa and his attorney, Ryan McClelland, couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday. But on ESPN they disputed Aramark’s allegations, saying Costa had tried to solve problems on site but was not supported by his managers.
And at the Health Department, where Costa previously had worked, a manager told ESPN, “It’s all been pleasant.”
Ryan also said that on Nov. 18 he had asked that Costa, on paid leave since Nov. 5, be reinstated. Costa’s attorney also filed a retaliation complaint in December with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which investigates such complaints against whistleblowers.
Aramark officials did not return phone calls Thursday but issued a statement: “We respect our employees’ privacy and consider personnel matters confidential. We maintain that privacy even if an individual chooses to discuss their situation publicly.”
City Health Department reports had itemized 37 critical violations of food safety among 26 concession stands and the main kitchens inside the two parks on Nov. 3, the Monday after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the New York Jets.
Although Arrowhead’s food operations had clean inspections before and during the football game, problems found that Monday led to 25 citations of critical violations. A critical violation is one that poses an imminent health hazard and typically is corrected immediately.
According to the health inspection reports, food and trash were left behind. Mold was found on ice machines. Cooked meat in a walk-in cooler had no date markings, and hot dogs in another cooler had “a thawed date” of Sept. 26.
Similar problems were found at the baseball stadium, which had 12 critical violations, although it had not been used since the seventh game of the World Series on Oct. 29.
On Thursday, both the Kansas City Royals and the Kansas City Chiefs issued statements in support of Aramark’s stadium operations, saying the company has been closely monitoring their operations and working with the Health Department to ensure food offerings at the stadiums are of the “highest quality.”
Aramark’s statement said it had served more than 17 million fans since 2007 at hundreds of games and events and had a strong record of performance.
“We have continued to work closely with the Kansas City Health Department who has inspected Truman Sports Complex more than 100 times over our operating tenure,” the statement said. “None of our Kansas City sports operations has ever been shut down by the Health Department and there have been no cases of food-related illness tied to our operations.”
The company also said its managers and employees continually received company training from the company, they also attend the Kansas City Health Department’s food handler course, Aramark said.
“In addition, EcoSure, an independent evaluator of quality assurance, will be on-site at Kauffman Stadium throughout the season to bring an added dimension of safety and provide an increased level of rigor that few dining establishments anywhere undertake.”
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