Most Cracker Jack boxes come with a surprise inside. At Coors Field in Denver, the molasses-flavored popcorn and peanut snacks came with a live mouse.
A health department inspector found the mouse in a commercial-size bag of Cracker Jack at Coors Field in September 2016, along with five live cockroaches in a trap in a storage room. Two weeks earlier, inspectors had found copious amounts of mouse droppings on a kitchen floor, in food-prep trays, inside a bin of rice and amid bags of cookies that had been chewed. Dead mice were found, and another live one had been found.
Inspectors on both visits cited the Coors Field food locations with high-level health violations — just a few of thousands of such violations found at North America’s 111 NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL venues in 2016 and 2017, according to an Outside the Lines analysis of more than 16,000 routine food-safety inspection reports from local health departments. At about 28 percent of the venues, half or more of their food service outlets incurred one or more high-level violations, the type of unsanitary conditions or omissions that can pose a risk for a foodborne illness.
The violations run the gamut: chicken, shrimp and sushi festering at dangerous temperatures that can breed bacteria; employees wiping their faces with their hands and then handling food for customers; cooks sweating over food; beef blood dripping on a shelf; moldy or expired food; dirty utensils or contaminated equipment; and the presence of live cockroaches and mice. Less serious but still icky: dirty floors, fruit flies, pesky pigeons and, in one venue, beer leaking from a ceiling.