TRANSPARENCY TUESDAY: Who's watching your wiener? Stadium eateries raise sanitation issues.



This is a story about risky wieners that has nothing to do with tweeting New York congressmen.

Nebraska's Journal-Star newspaper recently looked into who was making sure the hot dogs served at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Coliseum were safe to eat. What the newspaper found was: Nobody.

It turns out that -- based on what a state Agriculture Department inspector attributed to "tradition" -- nobody from the responsible government agencies can ever remember conducting a food-safety inspection at the stadium, which hosts NU volleyball and hockey competitions.

Last year, ESPN turned stomachs coast-to-coast with an investigative series looking at health department inspections at 107 major league venues. As with any sampling of 100-plus eatery inspections, this one turned up the customary parade of horrors: roaches and mice in the kitchens, food-service workers who didn't wash their hands, and food stored at unsafe temperatures.

The ESPN "Outside the Lines" report has prompted greater attention on food safety at sports venues nationally. If you're interested in checking out sanitary conditions at your own stadium eateries, remember that several actors may be involved. County health departments normally are responsible for inspecting dining establishments, but the state Agriculture Department may also have jurisdiction (such as in Kansas and in Pennsylvania, which helpfully gathers county inspection reports online in a searchable database).

Also remember that it is no excuse that the food-service provider is a private contractor and not a government agency. Restaurant inspection reports are public record regardless of whether the place being inspected is public or private property. And also remember -- as in Lincoln -- that the absence of inspection reports may itself be the real story.

Tagged: public records, Transparency Tuesday