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2 Investigators: City Toughening Food Inspections At Stadiums

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The city of Chicago is stepping up its efforts to inspect food served at ballparks and stadiums. (CBS)

The city of Chicago is stepping up its efforts to inspect food served at ballparks and stadiums. (CBS)

Pam Zekman Pam Zekman
Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Pam Zekman serves on CBS 2 Chicago’s...
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CHICAGO (CBS) — Hot dogs, Italian sausage and pizza are half the fun of going to the ball park.  But if that food isn’t prepared properly, it could make you sick.

Last year, 2 Investigator Pam Zekman reported on how the city’s health department only checked stadium food on non-game days. Now, things are changing.

Recent inspection reports from Wrigley Field show that out of 35 concessions, inspectors found 20 critical violations at nine booths. Three of those failed their inspection and were shut down. 

The health department used to do inspections on off days when ballparks and arenas were empty.  Now they do them on event days when kitchens are open and people are actually ordering food.

“It’s extremely important because it is while the concession stand is working and serving customers that all the rules about food safety, food handling, are even more important,” said food safety expert Kantha Shelke, who walked the food concession areas at Wrigley with Zekman.

The Italian Hot Spot had failed its city inspection for improper hand-washing and for not keeping the Italian sausages hot enough.

“One hundred forty degrees is a magical number when you talk about food safety because that’s the temperature at which bacteria are killed,” Shelke said.

At the Cub House, more food was found below the safe temperature mark and city inspectors found black slime in the ice machine. 

Most of the violations cited in the inspection seemed to have been fixed when CBS 2 visited, but there was a problem at The Cub House, according to Shelke.

A cashier “was using bare hands to handle money and then ice intermittently,” she said. “Money is loaded with germs so that was a problem.”

According to the city inspection results, more than 24 pounds of hot dogs, sausages and hamburgers  had to be thrown out from five different concession areas.

Dr. Bechara Choucair, Chicago’s city health commissioner, said this is just the beginning of improved inspections.

“We just started with Wrigley Field a few weeks ago, and we’re going to start with the rest of the stadiums as well,” he told Zekman.

All will get surprise inspections, he said.

A spokeswoman for Levy Restaurants, which runs the Wrigley concessions, said the company takes the safety and well being of its customers very seriously and violations were addressed promptly. 

She also said training staff on proper procedures and food handling techniques is a company priority.

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