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ESPN Program Raises Food Safety Issues At Kansas City Stadiums

Cockroaches, mold and mouse feces at Kauffman stadium food stands: Those were some of the food safety violations that Aramark district food safety manager Jon Costa related to ESPN’s "Outside the Lines" television program in a segment that aired on Friday. 

Costa, whom the Philadelphia-based company has since placed on paid administrative leave,  also voiced his concerns about food safety at Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums to the Kansas City, Mo., health department on Nov. 3.

That afternoon, the health department conducted surprise inspections at both stadiums, where Aramark operates concessions. The department found 37 critical violations at 20 of the 26 food stands, "Outside the Lines" reported.

“It appears like someone flipped the switch and walked out of the stadium after the game,” Naser Jouhari, environmental health services division manager for the health department, tells KCUR. 

Earlier this year, the food stands at both stadiums received Grade ‘A’ Food Service Excellence Awards from the health department.

“It was disappointing,” Jouhari says, describing the recent inspection results.

A follow-up inspection on Nov. 10 uncovered no food safety violations at either stadium.

In response to a request for comment, Aramark issued the following statement:

“Our food safety processes and procedures are industry leading and if issues are raised, we fix them quickly. In addition to working with the Kansas City Health Department, Aramark also conducts frequent internal inspections and takes the added step of engaging independent third-party auditors to objectively evaluate our practices.  An independent auditor evaluated both locations in Kansas City twice in the past 30 days.”

The Royals referred to a statement the team provided to "Outside the Lines": 

"We take great pride in promoting an atmosphere at Kauffman Stadium that Royals fans of all ages can enjoy," the statement reads. "The excitement and energy running through the stadium was on full display during the World Series and our partners, including Aramark, play an important role in creating those memories. Food and beverage is integral to the fan experience and Aramark has been a valued partner in delivering those services to fans. We all take food service, safety and quality very seriously."

The Chiefs also referred to the statement the team provided to "Outside the Lines":

"We're continually looking for new ways to enhance the fan experience and, for the past four seasons, we have partnered with Aramark to transform and elevate our general concession areas. The food and beverage service and selections delivered by Aramark are important parts of the Arrowhead experience."

The health department said on Friday that it will begin inspecting food stands following every game.

For this Sunday’s Chiefs game, the department will also conduct inspections before and during the game.

Despite the violations, Jouhari says he doesn’t think food safety at the stadiums is something fans should worry about.

“I am comfortable eating at any of these concession stands, and I am comfortable with my family and kids eating at any restaurant in the city,” Jouhari says.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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