Great. At Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia where I take my children to see the Phillies, 29 percent of the food vendors at the ballpark have been found to be in violation of health codes and some have even received critical violations.

I found out this information from ESPN’s special report, What’s Lurking in Your Stadium Food. ESPN reviewed health department inspection reports from the 107 stadiums that MLB, NBA, NHL and NFL teams use and created an interactive map so that sports lovers can find out how the ballparks faired.

Only 11 (three of them in Chicago) of the 107 stadiums received no violations. Eight stadiums (seven of them in Florida) had over 75 percent of their concession stands with violations. The rest of the stadiums fell somewhere in between.

The report makes clear that each state has its own health inspection rules. The three stadiums that were inspected in Chicago were inspected “when the stadiums were not hosting games, with no food being served or prepared, and no workers present.” The stadiums in Florida were inspected by a state agency and “officials say that makes their standards more uniform and stringent.”

Feeding tens of thousands of hungry sports fans impatiently waiting to get back to their seats often leads to unsafe food safety practices. Food can end up not cooked thoroughly, workers use their bare hands to get things done more quickly, and uncooked and cooked food end up being placed on the same cutting board without it being properly washed first.

So what can you do when you’re at the stadium to lessen your chances of eating tainted food from an unsafe vendor? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Bring your own food. Check with the individual stadium’s rules about bringing your own food to the park. Some allow most foods and non-alcoholic sealed beverages as long as they aren’t in glass containers. Some have much stricter regulations.
  • When you purchase food, go for pre-packaged foods and drinks that don’t need to be cooked. Sealed, bagged popcorn and other snacks, beverages in sealed bottles instead of fountain beverages may be safer than those cooked or poured on the premises.
  • Scope out a concession stand before you purchase. Are the employees wearing gloves? Can you peek back into where the food is being made? If you see anything that seems unsafe, move on to the next vendor.
  • If you purchase any food that seems undercooked or food that should be hot but has gotten warm or cold, don’t eat it.
Any other suggestions for ensuring safe ballpark food?

MNN homepage photo: LauriPatterson/iStockphoto

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Stadium vendors get failing grades
ESPN reviewed the inspection reports of food vendors from the country’s major sporting arenas for violations and compiled a detailed report.