At 30 of the venues, more than half of the concession stands or restaurants had been cited for at least one "critical" or "major" health violation. These violations pose a risk for food borne illnesses that can make someone sick or even prove fatal.
One of the most dangerous violations was food not being properly cooked, reheated or held at safe temperatures, because that allows the growth dangerous bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella, and staphylococcus aureus.
In addition, according to ESPN:
"In the past few years, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and Angel Stadium in Anaheim were cited with dozens of critical violations for rodent infestations. The violations ended up on local TV stations and in newspapers. Lucas Oil Stadium faced $3,500 in fines, and the violations in Anaheim angered officials with the city, which owns the stadium."
Any time you're buying food from an establishment that deals with quickly served foods produced in mass quantities, you're taking your chances. Most workers will start taking short-cuts that can compromise food safety when the pressure is on to get everyone served.
This concern is not exclusive to sports stadiums – food-borne illness can be contracted at virtually any restaurant.
The interesting part about this is that so many people have such complete confidence in the processed foods typically served at these venues. They assume this food must be safe, while shirking generally healthful foods like raw milk or raw eggs in fear of food-borne, disease-causing bacteria.
In reality, more often than not, the opposite is true.
The vast majority of the food recalls in recent years have been for highly processed, and/or pre-packaged foods.
Raw milk is in fact far less likely to be contaminated with dangerous bacteria; something I explained in greater detail in the articles Does Tainted Milk Cause Crohn's Disease? and Will Raw Milk Soon Be Banned in California?
And when it comes to eggs, it's all about what kinds of eggs you buy. Commercially produced grocery store eggs are far more likely to be contaminated than organic, free-range eggs.
Sports Stadiums Strike Out when it Comes to Food Safety
While there's never been a confirmed outbreak of food-borne illness at a sports stadium, many people have fallen ill at these venues. But as discussed in the ESPN article, proving the source of the food poisoning can be near impossible, and many cases go unreported anyway.
This becomes quite evident when you look at the statistics.
According to the most recent estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 81 million Americans are struck by food poisoning each year, and food-borne diseases cause up to 9,000 deaths annually. With food-borne illness affecting that many, it's a miracle we don't see recalls and warnings each and every day of the week. The reason we don't must be because these cases are not traced to the source…
After reviewing health department inspection reports from 107 North American sports arenas, ESPN's "Outside the Lines" discovered that there's indeed cause for concern when eating food from arena vendors.
ESPN reports that:
"At 30 of the venues, more than half of the concession stands or restaurants had been cited for at least one "critical" or "major" health violation. These violations pose a risk for food borne illnesses that can make someone sick or even prove fatal.
One of the most dangerous violations was food not being properly cooked, reheated or held at safe temperatures, because that allows the growth dangerous bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella, and staphylococcus aureus."
How Do You Know it's Food Poisoning?
Typical signs and symptoms of food poisoning include:
- Abdominal cramping
In addition, depending on the type of endotoxin, you may experience other symptoms such as:
- Fever and chills
- Bloody stools
- Nervous system damage
Most of these symptoms will occur quite suddenly, typically within 12-74 hours of ingesting contaminated food.
How to Treat Food Poisoning
Naturally, if your case is severe, you should seek medical treatment, as severe food poisoning can be fatal. If your stools turn black or have a tar-like consistency, it's a sign you're severely dehydrated and may need IV fluids. In cases of severe illness, you may also need to be treated with antibiotics. However, some salmonella bacteria have become resistant to many commonly used antibiotics.
Fortunately, most cases can be treated at home, using a few time-tested all natural strategies.
First and foremost, you need to make sure you're staying properly hydrated, so drink plenty of clear liquids, such as pure water and broth. You may also need to take some form of oral electrolyte, found in most pharmacies.
Most importantly is making sure you take a high quality probiotic.
Probiotics have been found effective against acute diarrhea, and it's one thing I will not travel without.
When treating acute infectious diarrhea, large therapeutic doses are required (typically an entire bottle over a day's time or about an eighth of a bottle every hour until the problem is resolved).
Keep in mind there are many inferior probiotics on the market. I suggest asking a trusted expert in your local health food store for their recommendation. If you don't have such a resource and want to take advantage of my experience, I sell a couple of probiotic supplements that I spent over five years researching and formulating to ensure superior quality.
Personally I never travel without a large supply of my probiotics. I have been shocked at how difficult it is to find high quality probiotics in many of my travels, so I activate my Boy Scout training and go prepared. Interestingly it is when you travel that you are most at risk for getting this problem as most all of your food is commercially processed and prepared.
Activated charcoal (which is typically used to treat accidental poisoning with toxic chemicals) may also be an effective remedy in cases of food poisoning.
It is non-toxic, and can be purchased in most drug- and grocery stores.
This is one of those basic first aid products I recommend everyone keep on hand at all times. Take the recommended dose and make sure you drink PLENTY of water. Keep in mind that this may also turn your stool black.
You may have heard of the recommendation to drink flat coca cola to settle your stomach and ease vomiting, and yes, this technique does seem to work and is one situation when drinking cola may be warranted. However, it must be completely flat. To accomplish this, simply pour into a glass and stir vigorously until all the carbonation has dissipated.
While this solution may work, please recognize that you are dumping loads of high fructose corn syrup into your system, raising your insulin levels and overall giving your immune system a major crack in the head. So this is a technique that you will want to use as a backup and not as your primary strategy.
Although you may not feel like it, nibbling on bland, dry foods, such as crackers can help with nausea as well.
Can You Prevent Acquiring Food-Borne Illness?
Even the healthiest of us can become a victim of food poisoning as some of these pathogens can be extremely toxic. Botulism, for example, is the most poisonous substance known to man and can be quite deadly. To give you an idea of its potency, botulism is 275 times more toxic than cyanide!
Fortunately, botulism is not among the more common causes of food poisoning.
Still, I am convinced that a healthy immune system is able to counter just about any infection. At the very least, you can give yourself the best fighting chance by making sure your immune system is working optimally at all times.
A strong immune system is your best defense against any pathogenic bacteria you come across, and will serve you well if you nourish it with the proper tools.
You can support your immune system by:
- Getting a good night's sleep
- Minimizing stress in your life
- Exercising regularly and effectively
- Getting enough sun exposure or, alternatively, enough of the right vitamin D (if you live in a cold environment where you can't stay out in the sun)
- Avoiding sugar and grains, and instead eating plenty of raw foods
- Taking a high-quality probiotic (good bacteria)
The Bottom Line
With food poisoning affecting nearly a quarter of the US population each year, I simply want to remind you to be mindful of what and where you eat, as it can have a significant impact on your health – both acutely, and long term.
You may get "convenience," but it's a very unequal exchange.
Not only are you gambling that those hamburgers and hot dogs won't make you acutely ill, but research has shown that it takes just one unhealthy meal -- a cheeseburger, fries and a soda, for example -- to set off a chain reaction of inflammation and free radical damage.
Of course, die-hard sports fans everywhere will roll their eyes and say there are no other options when you're stuck in an arena for hours on end. In this case, since most arenas do not allow you to bring food, you have to determine whether the risks are worth it to you.
You could opt to not watch the game live… Or eat prior to going and then fast while watching the game. After all, you can always eat afterward.
If none of these options seem feasible to you, at least look for food vendors that have an "A" rating. I'd also recommend checking out ESPN's interactive map of all the sports arenas to get an idea of just how cautious you may need to be, depending on which one you're going to.