Oilers rink taken to task

ANDREW HANON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

Edmonton's Rexall Place has the worst food safety record of any NHL arena in Canada, according to ESPN.

But health officials and Northlands wags say that claim is, well, hard to swallow.

"It's a very well-run facility," insists Nyall Hislop of Alberta Health Services, which is responsible for health inspections.

"We're not talking about a long list of problems."

"Food safety certainly is a top priority," says Brian Leadbetter, spokesman for Northlands, which manages Rexall Place.

"If and when issues arise, measures are taken immediately."

The American cable sports network released a report Monday comparing the health inspection records of 107 arenas and stadiums that host big-league sports around North America.

It detailed some stomach-turning cases in other cities, including mould and slime in ice machines, cockroaches crawling over equipment and staff refusing repeated orders to wash their hands.

In eight of the venues, 75% to 100% of the food vendors -- everything from full-service restaurants to hotdog stands -- were cited for some kind of health violation.

Only 11 -- including Air Canada Centre and Rogers Centre in Toronto, along with Scotiabank Place in Ottawa -- had complete bills of good health.

At Rexall, seven of 27 food vending outlets were cited for violations in their last inspection.

Calgary's Pengrowth Saddledome had the second-worst of the seven Canadian venues, with 14% of its food vendors caught in violations.

Rexall's infractions included things like failing to disinfect wiping cloths right after using them, improperly thawing frozen food and inadequate temperatures in warming trays.

Northlands contracts Rexall's food services to Dominion Sportservice, a local subsidiary of the multinational Delaware North Companies.

Calls to Dominion were referred to Northlands.

AHS's Hislop said that simply counting up the number of violations at each venue doesn't give a clear picture.

"We're not necessarily comparing apples to apples here," he said.

For starters, each state and province has its own health code and system for inspections.

In Alberta, inspectors have a list of 85 infractions they look out for.

The main kitchen at Rexall is inspected at least three times a year and each vendor twice a year, not counting followups if they're needed.

The fact that Rexall and the Saddledome are cited more often could mean they're inspected more frequently or the rules here are tighter.

"If you're not looking for problems, you're not going to find them," he said.

Hislop also pointed out that most of Rexall's infractions were minor and fixed on the spot, while the inspector looked on. "All it takes is for one person not to wash their hands while we're there, and they get cited for violation," he said.

On average, six to 12 restaurants a year in Edmonton are shut down because of serious health violations.

The infractions cited at Rexall Place, Hislop said, "are nothing even remotely close to that."

A full listing of restaurant health inspections in Alberta can be found at: www.restaurantinspections.ca.


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