Kansas City health officials were concerned and disappointed by conditions they found at Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums during recent food safety inspections.
Reports 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.
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.
“We were concerned about the violations. It is expected from operators to clean concession stands before they walk out” after a game, said Naser Jouhari, manager of the city’s environmental health services division. “It was a disappointment for us to see all that food left in drawers and at food prep lines at room temperature.”
All of the food was discarded, but its presence opened the concession stands to vermin and insect infestation. For example, the report on one football stadium concession stand cited “excessive amounts of fruit flies.”
“We never thought to inspect after the game because we assumed that it’s a better business practice to clean after the food service,” he said.
A critical violation is one that poses an imminent health hazard and must be corrected immediately.
The unscheduled postgame inspections Nov. 3 were triggered by a complaint from inside Aramark Corp., the company that operates concessions at both stadiums as well as other prominent public venues in Kansas City.
The insider complaint and city findings were first reported by ESPN.com’s Outside the Lines.
Jon Costa, Aramark’s district safety manager in Kansas City and the company’s contact with the city Health Department, sent an email to the city and several media outlets. It included photographs of problems he said he saw at the stadiums but was unable to get addressed.
Costa could not be reached Friday.
Aramark responded to an inquiry with an email statement.
“Food safety is a top priority that we take very seriously,” the statement said. “On Monday, November 10, 2014, the Kansas City Health Department revisited our operations at both Arrowhead and Kauffman Stadiums and reported no issues or violations.”
Aramark said it conducts frequent internal inspections and had hired an independent auditor to evaluate its operations at both stadiums twice in the last 30 days. It did not characterize the auditor’s findings.
Both sports teams issued statements Friday saying Aramark’s service is an important part of the fan experience, with the Royals adding that the company has been “a valued partner” in delivering services to fans.
“We have no issues with their service. I am not aware of any health or safety complaints,” said Oscar McGaskey, director of the Kansas City Convention Center, which Aramark serves.
Jouhari said there is nothing in Aramark’s record to indicate unusual problems. The company said it has received food safety excellence awards at each stadium from the department.
ESPN’s report had quoted Costa saying that pizza dough beyond its expiration date had been served during the final game of the World Series. It said Costa called the practice a bad precedent for workers but not a health hazard.
A statement from Aramark that ESPN posted as part of its report called Costa’s complaints to the city “unsubstantiated claims raised by a disgruntled employee” and said it was a “personally motivated attack.”
Jouhari said Costa is a former employee of the Kansas City Health Department and “he knows what he’s talking about.”
Aramark’s statement posted by ESPN also said none of the violations city inspectors cited with the postgame visits “had any impact on fans or any relation to game day services.”
Jouhari said he was confident that fans at the game, including his son, were safe eating at the stadium. And he said that would be true this Sunday as well.
The Health Department will conduct its normal pregame food preparation and game-time inspections when the Chiefs host the Seattle Seahawks.
And Jouhari promised more spot checks during the game and a follow-up afterward.
Jouhari said fans, however, should use “common sense” at the stadium and any restaurant to monitor the food and service they receive.
“Look at the floor of that concession stand. That can give you a clear idea of how that food service operates,” he said. “You can easily predict what’s going on in a kitchen from going to their lobby and the restrooms and seeing the general cleanliness of that establishment.”