Rays sue former concessions provider over food safety issues

Tropicana Field had the highest number of critical food safety violations of any park in baseball, and now the Rays are suing their former concessions provider. (AP Photo)
Tropicana Field had the highest number of critical food safety violations of any park in baseball, and now the Rays are suing their former concessions provider. (AP Photo)

Back in August, Sports Illustrated released their ballpark food safety rankings for 2017. They used recent health inspection data to rank every ballpark in baseball from 1 to 28 (with two parks left off the list due to insufficient data) based on the number of food safety violations they received, and the severity of those violations. The Tampa Bay Rays’ park, Tropicana Field, landed at the very bottom of those rankings.

It seems like that Sports Illustrated ranking is having some far reaching consequences. The Rays ended their relationship with Centerplate, the company that handled the team’s ballpark concessions, at the end of the 2017 season. And on Friday, Noah Pransky of WTSP.com reported that the Rays have filed suit against Centerplate for breach of contract. The list of allegations that the Rays are making against Centerplate is pretty intense.

The lawsuit, filed Friday, alleges “Centerplate consistently failed to perform and neglected its obligations despite the Rays’ repeated calls for improvement” and failed to “deliver the requisite quality of service and standard of performance required…to properly operate and maintain the concessions equipment and facilities…to keep or provide accurate records to the Rays regarding revenues and commissions owed… to pay the Rays its agreed-upon share of the revenues from concessions (and) to indemnify the Rays for Centerplate’s negligence.”

The Trop’s spot at the bottom of the list was, according to Sports Illustrated, well earned. Their data from the Florida Division of Business and Professional Regulation revealed that the park had tallied a total of 241 food safety violations during its last inspection. While that wasn’t the highest number of total violations among all the parks, the Trop had an absolutely shocking 105 critical violations. SI defined critical violations as “citations linked to the spread of foodborne illnesses or, if an inspector had not been there to correct the violation, could have led to these risk factors.”

Here are a few “highlights” from SI’s explanation of the Trop’s ranking.

Two food entities (the catering kitchen and the stand outside Section 303) tallied over 20 violations each.

Those two “food entities” provided nearly 17% of the Trop’s 241 total violations, which is really not good.

Violations ranged from the observed presence of live insects to black mold accumulating inside an ice bin.

Ew ew ew EWWWW.

An employee was observed handling hot dogs and cash without washing hands in between.

There isn’t an EW big enough for that one. So, so gross.

While Sports Illustrated’s rankings shouldn’t be taken as gospel, they were pretty transparent about how they arrived at each park’s ranking. They were up front when the data they were using (which is all publicly available) wasn’t current and made sure to note that each state has different standards when it comes to food safety violations.

Regardless of how the ranking was arrived at, the Rays’ spot at the bottom of the list seems to have caught the attention of the team. It made the public aware of what was going on, and it probably played a role in the actions they’re taking now.

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Liz Roscher is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at lizroscher@yahoo.com or follow her on twitter! Follow @lizroscher

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