September 11, 2011
The major league standings show that the Chicago Cubs were eliminated in the NL pennant race a long time ago. Perhaps as far back as 2009.
And yet, midway through another lost September, they still have a magic number at Wrigley Field. It's 140 — as in degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature at which bacteria die.
And, says an amusing if disturbing and icky report by a Chicago TV station that cites the investigation of city health department inspectors, the Cubs fail at that, too:
Recent inspection reports from Wrigley Field show that out of 35 concessions, inspectors found 20 critical violations at nine booths. Three of those failed their inspection and were shut down.
Any fan who indulges in ballpark food at any stadium is taking a calculated risk — be it for reasons of nature, quality or sanitation. And, as any Chicagoan would say, the more sausage one consumes — even if it's kosher — the more time you'll probably spend in touch with the nearest commode. And ketchup on a hot dog, young lady (pictured)? For shame.
But what inspectors found at Wrigley wasn't simply the hazards of fast food. They cited:
• Food being cooked at temperatures not hot enough to kill bacteria.
• Workers serving food with the same unclean hands that touch germ-ridden money.
• More than 24 pounds of hamburgers, hot dogs and sausages that had to be thrown away because they were unsafe to eat.
• "Black slime" in an ice machine. (Ewwwww!)
• An uncontrollable outbreak of Ricketts in the front office. Oh, wait, that's just the last name of the Cubs owners.
The slimy ice machine was a particularly riveting moment in the TV report, in which longtime CBS-2 investigative journalist Pam Zekman and scientist Kantha Shelke had the following exchange:
TV reporter: "They found black slime inside an ice machine; that sounds awful. ... Bad?"
Scientist: "Yes, it's terrible."
That's why they're the best in the business, folks.
This is what happens when city officials actually check the ballpark on game days. Under the previous mayoral regime (moment of silence), inspectors checked kitchens and concession stands while they weren't serving any people. A cynical person might say this sounds (perhaps, smells) awfully fishy. But new mayor Rahm Emmanuel is doing things differently. Other venues in the city can expect similar visits.
Rooftop businesses didn't fare much better when the city inspected them in June. So it's not just inside the park. All of Wrigleyville is subject to getting busted.
As Zekman said in her report, the offending concession stands at Wrigley — including "The Italian Hot Spot" and "The Cub House" — mostly had cleaned up their act by the time TV did its follow-up visit. They did spot at least one worker still handling food and money intermittently. Stop that! You have no idea where that money's been.
If a 100 percent clean environment sounds unlikely, you're right. But it's not impossible. In a survey that Business Insider Magazine published in April, only one MLB park came through without getting a single violation in 2010: Rogers Centre in Toronto. Canada! Figures. America's little brother always gets better grades.
The best course of action is, needless to say, just to keep eating hot dogs and hope for the best. No, really, the best thing is to prepare all of your meals yourself while adhering to proper cleanliness procedures. Now, if they'd only let you bring your own grill into the ballpark...
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