When food safety complaints aren’t real: Missouri health types respond to claims at Kauffman Stadium

The Kansas City Health Department has received within the last week at least two fraudulent food safety complaints made at Kauffman Stadium.

ARAMARK ME 042115 DRE 0064fAccording to the health department, in one case, an individual contacted the city’s 311 Action Center impersonating an Aramark food service employee to report supposed safety issues.

The department uncovered the false claim when following-up with the employee; in this case it was discovered that the person’s identity was deliberately misrepresented.

“Kansas City’s Health Department performs thousands of inspections each year, and each complaint is taken seriously,” said Naser Jouhari, environmental health services division manager. “The reporting of deliberately false claims does a disservice to our entire community and wastes taxpayer dollars.”

In another case, an individual sent a tweet to the health department’s Twitter account and posted a photo of unsafe food allegedly served at Kauffman Stadium. Further investigation determined the photo was lifted from an unrelated Florida news story and falsely represented as food served at Kauffman Stadium.

“Food safety is our highest priority and the Kansas City Health Department continues to be supportive of our safety program and practices,” said Carl Mittleman, President of Aramark’s sports and entertainment division. “We respect the health department’s obligation to follow up on complaints; however, we find the nature and timing of multiple attempts to undermine our efforts to be very troubling.”

The health department continues to make regular inspections at food handling facilities within Kauffman Stadium, officals said.

This year, the department has made 10 visits and conducted 147 inspections; the most recent inspection at Kauffman Stadium occurred June 19, as a follow-up to a complaint.

Stadium food safety expose linked to firing

When I turned 16 my dad and I (below, exactly as shown) took a trip around the U.S. and caught a bunch of baseball games at MLB parks. Seven cities, seven games in eight days. In each of the stadiums my dad and I ate a standard hot dog (to compare and rate) as well as a sample of the local food specialty (poutine in Montreal, cheesesteaks in Philly, etc.).

I wasn’t the healthiest teenager.n564500217_1828077_9385

Food is a big part of the stadium experience for many.

In November 2014, ESPN’s Outside the Lines ran a story about Jon Costa, an Aramark employee at Kaufmann Stadium who reported frustration with his bosses over not being able to address food safety problems. Today, ESPN reported that Costa had been fired.

Jon Costa shared with “Outside the Lines” a copy of a letter he said his former employer, Aramark, sent him on March 17 saying Costa was being fired “for cause.” The letter outlines a number of reasons, the first of which is that he violated the company’s media policy by taking his concerns public.

The company defended its food safety record: “In Kansas City, we have served over 17 million fans since 2007 at hundreds of games and events and have a strong record of performance. We have continued to work closely with the Kansas City Health Department who has inspected Truman Sports Complex more than 100 times over our operating tenure. None of our Kansas City sports operations have ever been shut down by the Health Department and there have been no cases of food-related illness tied to our operations.”

In its letter of termination, Aramark also said Costa “failed to take prompt action to address food safety issues, notwithstanding documented support from his managers and direction from them to do so” and to discipline employees who were violating food safety practices.

But Costa said he had tried to solve problems by addressing them on site and bringing them to the attention of managers who never supported his efforts. He said he did not supervise anyone and had neither the authority nor training to discipline fellow employees.

The letter detailing his firing also says that Costa hampered Aramark’s relationship with the local health department and that he did not follow protocol in dealing with the department. Costa, who used to work for the City of Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department, denied those allegations. When “Outside the Lines” interviewed health department division manager Naser Jouhari in November, he said he knew Costa as a former employee and Aramark representative and that, “It’s all been pleasant. We never had any major concerns.”

Cameras are everywhere: Newfoundland uni probing student complaints of raw, mouldy food

The food service at Memorial University in St. John’s, N.L. is looking into complaints of spoiled meals, after photos of mouldy and raw products allegedly served at a campus dining hall were posted to social media.

memorial.uni.foodA collection of photos and complaints were posted online Monday, alleging that the students were being served spoiled, unsafe food. The photos include images of a fly on a taco plate, undercooked pork chops, and a mouldy lemon.

The author of the lengthy post complained that students living in residence are forced to purchase meal plans that cost between $2,200 and $2,300 per semester, but the food being served to them is not edible.

According to the post, the school’s dining services are now being handled by Aramark, a U.S.-based food services company.

“Over the course of this year, every meal is a gamble,” the post read. “The only truly safe foods which pose no threat of food poisoning/disgusting experiences are toasts and cereals. I personally have had uncooked eggs, raw cod fish, uncooked chicken breasts/chicken pot pie, food with hair baked in, and several other equally disgusting occurrences.”

The lengthy post also included complaints that were posted to the MUN Dining Services Facebook page, and responses from the page administrators.

An online petition has also been created, calling on the university to enforce higher food quality and health standards at the dining hall. 

In response to the complaints, a statement was posted Wednesday to the MUN Dining Services Facebook page, stating that the dining services department is “very concerned” about the images posted to social media. 

barf.o.meter.dec.12“We have brought in a team of food safety experts to assess our operations and ensure that we are providing a positive, safe and healthy dining environment for students, faculty, visitors and staff,” the statement said.

A town hall meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, for students to voice their concerns about the university’s food services.

Why is the university responding with an antiquated town hall meeting instead of aggressively circulating proof of the safety of the food? Oh, maybe that doesn’t exist.

Kansas prisons yield repeat food safety violations

Dirty kitchen conditions and violations repeated for several months are among some of the more consistent findings in food safety inspections for Kansas prisons.

o.brother.prisonAlthough the corrections department adheres to Kansas Department of Agriculture food safety guidelines, like restaurants, it doesn’t rely on KDA staff to do the inspections.

Instead, both monthly and sporadic audits are conducted by Kansas Department of Corrections employees, some of whom work in the facilities they inspect.

“I hear what you’re saying in terms of looking like it’s all under one DOC umbrella,” said Jeremy Barclay, spokesman for the KDOC. “But we interact with so many different state agencies and branches of government and different divisions within the agency, that it’s pretty secure.”

The inspections cover the 19 months between January 2013 and July 2014. They include seven of the state’s 10 prisons and total 19 facilities, such as satellite units. The KDOC filled the request free of charge, because another entity already had requested the inspections. Inspections weren’t provided for the Topeka, Lansing and Larned juvenile correctional facilities because they weren’t in the original request.

blues.brothers.jailhouse-rockThe nearly 340 inspections show noncompliance and deficiencies month after month at several facilities.

The Kansas Juvenile Correctional Facility in Topeka, for example, repeated several mistakes for at least 10 months, including not taking proper temperature logs; not enforcing handwashing and glove use; not having employees and staff restrain hair properly; not keeping accurate chemical logs; and not having inmate staff up to date on food safety training.

Aramark holds the food service contracts in all the prisons, save the KJCF, which switched last October to Trinity Services Group after the service went out for bid. It was awarded a nearly $400,000 contract to work from October 2013 through June 2014.

In each prison, Aramark pays for a manager, an assistant manager and food service supervisors. Under them, are the inmates, Barclay said.

Inmate workers are supposed to be trained and supervised, but 20 inspections show those areas lacking for several months — half of which came from the KJCF.

Some Chiefs fans indifferent about food violations at Arrowhead Stadium

As the Kansas City Chiefs beat up the Seattle Seahawks in brutal KC weather, most fans weren’t concerned about critical food violations at Arrowhead Stadium.

arrowhead.tailgateArrowhead is known for tailgating and a lot of fans said they were relieved that they never eat inside the stadium.

“I just come for the food, games, beer,” Joe Chames, a Chiefs fan, said.

“We did clam bake.  This year we’re having salmon because they’re coming from Seattle. Tennessee we did pulled pork,” Donna Rucker, a Chiefs fan, said.

An Aramark food safety inspectors’ scathing report of molded food, roaches and mice feces at Arrowhead Stadium last week deterred some fans from digging in at the concession stand.

“The fact that they serve food that’s been sitting a whole week. I’m just glad that we tailgate instead of eating inside,” Rucker said.

Other fans had no problem enjoying Aramark’s culinary offerings before and during the game.

“Doesn’t bother me, so when I get hungry, I’m not going to stop eating … you can’t bring anything in, so,” Chames said.

Food safety is our top priority, but ‘you will sell the dough’ Bugs, mold on menu at Kansas stadiums

The food safety manager at Kansas City’s Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums, home to the Royals and the Chiefs, told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that poor food handling and dirty conditions have routinely been putting fans’ health at risk — including during the World Series. In addition, a city health department inspection completed Nov. 3 found dozens of critical health code violations at the facilities, according to documents obtained by “Outside the Lines.”

image008Among the concerns found at the stadiums by the manager: cockroaches in vending areas, mouse feces on the same tray as pizza dough, sinks where employees were supposed to wash their hands being blocked by boxes or trash, employees eating in food prep areas and trays of food headed for customers that measured at unsafe temperatures. The health department found several critical violations, including mold growth in ice machines, dirty pans and trays and excessive numbers of fruit flies.
“When we lose control over hygienic practices and we also combine that with poor temperature control — that could be a catastrophe,” said Jon Costa, the district food safety manager for Aramark, which runs the concessions at both venues and has food and beverage contracts with 30 professional sports teams. “That is a recipe for foodborne illness. … It’s very likely temperatures are abused every game. Every game.”

Costa sent information about the food safety concerns to local media and ESPN last week, a step he said he took after months of trying to get Aramark senior management to address his concerns and reprimand employees who broke food handling and prep rules. He said he had no authority to reprimand employees, and he was powerless on site because the employees he would have been instructing did not report to him.After learning that Costa sent those details to the media, Aramark placed him on paid administrative leave last week for violating its media policy, Costa said.

image009Marc Bruno, chief operating officer of Aramark Sports and Entertainment, said last week that Costa’s photographs and descriptions were “just allegations at this point,” and the company has addressed problems that Costa has raised throughout his 2 years with the company.

“It’s completely contrary to everything that we have done in there,” Bruno said. “Food safety is the top priority, No. 1 at Aramark and No. 1 in Kansas City and all our operations.” He said both venues are routinely inspected by the City of Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department, which has awarded a number of concession stand food safety excellence awards at the stadiums in the past.

Tod MacKenzie, senior vice president of communications and public affairs for Aramark, also wrote a detailed response to “Outside the Lines.”

“The unsubstantiated claims raised by a disgruntled employee are very troubling, as is his unknown motivation,” MacKenzie said. “Especially disturbing is the fact that this individual is personally responsible and entrusted with managing food safety at the locations in question. …

“The random collection of isolated and questionable photographs that the employee distributed represents selective snapshot ‘moments-in-time’ that without proper context can support any number of conclusions.”

The Royals issued a statement, saying: “We take great pride in promoting an atmosphere at Kauffman Stadium that Royals fans of all ages can enjoy. 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.”

In July 2010, “Outside the Lines” conducted a comprehensive review of food safety at all 107 venues for professional football, hockey, baseball and basketball in North America. In that report, 62 percent of Kauffman’s vendors had critical violations, and at Arrowhead, it was 56 percent. Aramark began its contracts with Kauffman in 2007 and started one with Arrowhead, for general concessions only, in 2010. Costa said his position was created as a result of the “Outside the Lines” report.

Costa said managers have not been promoting food safety, especially among the food prep workers who actually handle the ingredients, as evidenced by a scene he described from the final game of the World Series on Oct. 29. The concession stands were running low on pizza dough, and a prep worker told him that she was left with a tray of dough that had expired Oct. 25.
“She says to me that she called our supplier and our supplier told her, ‘Do not serve dough that is expired,'” Costa said. “However, our manager stepped in and said, ‘You will sell the dough. You will sell the dough.'”

image007“Outside the Lines” heard two other accounts of the dough incident that backed up Costa’s description and indicated that pizzas made with expired dough were sold to customers.

Even if the dough didn’t pose a health hazard or sicken anyone, Costa said it set a bad precedent for workers.

“I think it says that, ‘Hey, we can sell any substandard food that we want,'” he said.

Safest restaurant in the city of Harrisburg (PA)?

It might look good today, but by cleaning up is the Aramark-managed Capitol cafeteria the “safest restaurant in the city of Harrisburg”?

PennLive.com reports that after being closed by Pennsylvania officials on December 17th following an inspection that revealed rodent droppings, underheated dishwashing water and poor food handling procedures, Capitol is trying to clean up their image. Bruce Walton, vice president for operations of Aramark was cited as saying that prior to the closing, more than 1,500 customers ate at the Capitol cafeteria on busy weekdays and that rebuilding that steady clientele will take time.

After a thorough clean-up, a new pest control program with Ecolab and contracting with a company to provide surprise audits, Aramark district manager Andre Obendorfer was quoted as saying “This is the safest restaurant to eat in in the city of Harrisburg.”

Ah, the safest food/safest restaurant comment; impossible to back-up with evidence and leaves everyone who eats there with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Walton, by not disclosing any firings or discipline, downplayed what might be the most important change — personnel. He was quoted as saying that they “did make changes in our team.” Rodent control and a cold dishwasher can lead to public health issues, but other violations found on December 17th including indirect cross-contamination (handling potentially contaminated equipment and then going to clean equipment, possibly leaving pathogens for the next person) and not having paper towels, demonstrate a lack of a food safety culture. A personnel and management issue.

Food safety culture is a set of values wherein food safety risks are openly identified, discussed, and addressed. What this means is that anyone who works there — from manager to dishwasher — knows that paper towels can reduce risks so they refill the dispenser. Food safety is supported from the organization but it’s the front-line folks who hold the health of patrons in their hands. An organization like Aramark needs to be building the food safety culture capacity behind the scenes, not just touting how clean everything looks now.

To assure patrons of their commitment to food safety, the article reports that Aramark will have staff on site to answer questions, use guest chefs and in the most bizarre step, revamp cafeteria stations such as turning the pizza station into an “Italian zone.” I guess visitors to the Capitol Complex have the perception that Italian food is safer than pizza?