NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Nashville's two largest stadiums, Nissan Stadium and Bridgestone Arena, were both ranked in the bottom five of their respective sports for worst food-safety inspections, according to a new report from ESPN's Outside the Lines .
Nissan Stadium had the third-highest rate of high-level food safety violations in the NFL, while Bridgestone Arena had the fifth-highest rate of violations in the NHL. The report looked at food-safety inspections from across all four major sports from 2016-2017.
Some of the violations at Nissan Stadium included "toxins stored next to chicken strips," on September 10th, 2017 and "a gentleman sweating over a fry basket," during a September 11th, 2016 inspection.
At Bridgestone Arena, inspectors saw "flying insects around a clogged hand sink" in the vending commissary during two different visits in the same day, as well as an employee handling raw beef and then ready-to-eat food.
Both stadiums were found to have higher rates of violations than other establishments in Nashville, according to the report. Nationwide, only 9 of the 111 venues looked at in the ESPN report performed worse than the average rate of violations in food-safety inspections in their community, including both of Nashville's.
However, Brian Todd with the Metro Health Department responded to the report saying, "The department ... believes such rankings have no meaning." He said "It appears that ESPN based their rankings on the total number of violations, no matter how minor, among all permitted vendors at professional sports venues."
Todd explained that the report's method did not accurately depict the stadiums and that the "...establishments at our professional sports venues take food safety seriously and we would put them up against any establishment in any other city."
28 percent of all stadiums nationwide were found to have violations at half or more of the outlets inspected at the stadium, a number which includes both Nashville stadiums.
Read Todd's full statement below:
It appears that ESPN based their rankings on the total number of violations, no matter how minor, among all permitted vendors at professional sports venues. The Health Department disagrees with taking that approach and believes such rankings have no meaning. One of our biggest concerns is that ESPN did not base their rankings on the overall score of each establishment. This is not to say that the establishments at the two venues are perfect, because they face added challenges of serving 1,000s of people at a very rapid pace which could lead to minor violations. There are more than 60 individual permitted establishments at Nissan Stadium and the average inspection score in 2017 was 96. The lowest inspection score at Nissan Stadium in 2017 was 89. Bridgestone Arena has more than 50 establishments and the average inspection score in 2017 was a 94. The lowest inspection score at Bridgestone Arena in 2017 was an 80. I cannot vouch for the level of expertise of inspectors in other cities, however, I know that our food inspectors are well trained and our lead inspectors are Registered Environment Health Specialists. I’m also not sure how other venues are inspected but I do know that our inspectors conduct unannounced inspections at both venues during games or concerts…when vendors and kitchens are fully operating. This was not the case about five years ago when ESPN did the same story and Soldier Field in Chicago was ranked as having the best inspection scores. Soldier Field’s scores were based on inspections that were conducted when there was no activity in the stadium and the kitchens were not operating. The Health Department believes that the establishments at our professional sports venues take food safety seriously and we would put them up against any establishment in any other city.