No one likes paying $15 for a mediocre cheesesteak at the Pepsi Center, but for the most part, we write it off as part of the stadium experience. But if that sandwich came with the risk of Salmonella? No, thanks.
In 2016, health inspectors found that cheesesteaks and bratwursts at a stall inside the Pepsi Center sat in a warming drawer with a temperature of 97 degrees—well below the 140 degrees considered safe. This violation was one of many uncovered at 44 of the 58 stalls inspected at the Pepsi Center, earning the stadium the distinction of being the seventh worst for food safety out of North America’s 111 NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL facilities.
ESPN’s Outside the Lines ranked the stadiums after reviewing more than 16,000 routine food-safety inspection reports from local health departments, and the results will have you rethinking your halftime nachos. Although the full list is enough to turn anyone off of stadium food forever, Denver’s venues have had some particularly bad seasons. The Pepsi Center came in seventh, Coors Field was designated the ninth worst (77 stalls out of 107 had high-level violations), and Broncos Stadium at Mile High ranked fifth (74 stalls out of 92 had high-level violations). You don’t have to be a sports fan to recognize that that’s a bad scorecard.
While it’s true that food-safety violations occur everywhere—from fine-dining restaurants to drive-thrus—stadiums serve thousands of people during any given game, making the potential of contamination all the more dangerous. The violations found at Denver’s stadiums range from leaving a Bloody Mary mix at room temperature to finding rat droppings under a pallet of beer to uncovering a “black mold-like substance” inside an ice machine.
In a statement released via Twitter, the Colorado Rockies claimed that all of the potential issues “were immediately addressed and corrected.” Pepsi Center representatives and those from Aramark, which supplies most of the food at Coors Field and the Pepsi Center, also assured the Denver Post that items noted during the inspections were “quickly corrected.”
We were made aware of each health inspection report and potential issues, all of which were immediately addressed and corrected.”
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) December 13, 2018
It’s hard to say exactly how many people may have gotten sick from food at Denver’s stadiums, since most people don’t report food poisoning regardless of where it occurs. It’s often difficult to target the source of the illness, as some contaminants affect people within hours and others strike within days.
But according to this report, even packaged foods, like a bag of Cracker Jacks, aren’t safe: In September 2016, a health department inspector found a live mouse in a commercial-size bag at Coors Field, not to mention the five live cockroaches found in the storage room. Sadly, that’s not exactly the “Surprise Inside” you hoped for as a child.