2 Investigators: Food Inspectors Cry Foul At United Center

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Health Department has found critical food safety violations at the United Center.

After a CBS 2 investigation, the city began inspecting food vendors at sports venues during games — something they had not done before.

2 Investigator Pam Zekman has previously reported on the potentially dangerous food temperature violations at Wrigley Field, Soldier Field and U.S. Cellular Field.

Now the results of inspections at the United Center are in and violations found at eight different concession stands resulted in the United Center getting an F, a failed inspection.

“We found a lot of findings that are pretty common in other places as well, temperature-control violations,” Dr. Bechara Choucair, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, says. “They are critical because they are the gateway to food-borne illness, and we want to make sure that when we identify temperature-control issues that we address it right on the spot.”

He added: “What we were happy about is the immediate response from these food stand operators to fix these problems.”

The inspectors found 12 critical temperature violations similar to violations they found at other Chicago sports arenas.

The Steakhouse concession stand was cited by health inspectors for critical temperature violations because operators did not keep tuna burgers and coleslaw at the right temperature.

Inspectors found pizza at The Breakaway stand and Italian beef sandwiches at the Back Stage counter below the acceptable hot temperature of 140 degrees. The Mex It Up concession stand was cited because its prep cooler was not maintaining food at a temperature of 40 degrees or below. The cooler was tagged until it was repaired or replaced.

The eight vendors cited with the critical violations during the inspection had to throw out 47 pounds of potentially hazardous food.

Food safety expert Kantha Shelke reviewed the inspection reports and was alarmed at the findings.

“I’m surprised that the enterprises operating at United Center did not pay attention and follow the simplest rules of food safety,” she says.

Dr. Choucair said the unannounced inspections on game day have proven to be valuable.

“I am very happy with this program. We’re going to continue operating under this policy in 2012,” he says.

Choucair added that with education of workers and continued spot inspections, they hope to end food temperature problems.  All violations at the United Center were corrected at the time of the inspections.

“We were happy about the immediate response from these food stand operators to fix these problems. Choucair said, “and the continuous ongoing dialogue with them to ensure that these problems are not happening again.”

Levy Restaurants, the company that runs the United Center concessions, declined to answer specific questions about the inspection reports. But a spokesperson issued a statement:

“A world-class experience for our guests is our passion and, needless to say, this requires great attention to every detail in both the front and the back-of-the-house. To that end, we provide in-depth training, maintain the highest standards and aim for perfection in health department reviews. It takes a no-nonsense commitment and a vigilant eye at every level, in every area of a facility, to adhere to these standards and we expect nothing less from our team members.”

Levy Restaurants turned down CBS 2’s request to see and videotape its food preparation process.

Click here to see the full report of health inspections at the United Center.

More from Pam Zekman
  • billydrewfirecrew

    it would not hurt if they would inspect all of the sport center’s they probaly be surprised of the amount of violation’s

  • sportsvenufoodfan

    I just wonder how long after purchase did it take her undercover fan to take temperature of the food they purchased? Something tells me they did not temp the food right away. IF you ever grill at your house you know that as soon as this type of food comes off the grill temperature starts to drop. I think this is over exaggerated by the media and think these people do a great job with some really good food.

  • NikD33

    sportsvenufoodfan you need to re-read the article. It was the health department inspecting the actual food at the concession stands, not an “undercover fan” removing it from the temps they were being held at and then testing it. IMO there is nothing about making sure food is safe that was exaggerated here. I work in the restaurant industry and you don’t mess around with sanitiation and food safety! Would you honestly want to eat something held at a temp that could allow bacteria to grow? I don’t think so. #1 food is to be cooked at a proper temp to make it safe for consumption and if it is not going to be consumed right away it must remain at a safe temp, period.

  • Roy Munson

    It is funny because in this video she is making a pizza and says she knows its safe because she made it at home but she didn’t temp it so how does she know. Also just because a few temps were off does not automatically make the food hazerdous, it just has a great potential for it. I guarnatee you if you look at the amount of claims for the amount of food sold there it is probably so minimal. Also I heard she has a deal with some of the other food services around Chicago that she will not report on the if they help her out with reservations and food. I bet if she did this report on restaurants in Chicago you would have the same findings but then she couldn’t get her free meals.

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