Saddledome cooking panned

DAVE DORMER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

Officials are defending food handling practices at the Pengrowth Saddledome after a report ranked it second worst in the country among major stadiums.

"I feel very comfortable and confident with the people we hire and train to provide services to our fans," said Mark Vaillant, vice president of food and beverage at the Saddledome.

"People should feel comfortable and safe to be able to attend any events here."

According to an ESPN survey of more than 100 arenas and stadiums used by professional sports teams around North America, health inspectors found violations at 25% of the vendors in Edmonton's Rexall Place and 14% at the Saddledome, making them the two worst in Canada.

By comparison, no violations were found at the Rogers Centre and Air Canada Centre in Toronto and Scotiabank Place in Ottawa while the Bell Centre in Montreal was listed at 3%.

General Motors Place rounded out the Canadian contingent of the survey with 9% of violations.

But those numbers aren't a true representation of how food is being handled, said Mark Fehr, zone manager of environmental public health for AHS.

"I think it's misleading to say the food isn't safe (at the Saddledome)," he said.

"The place is quite well run, I've eaten there and I'm not concerned."

According to inspection reports posted on the Alberta Health Services website, violations found at Saddledome eateries were minor, with utensils and equipment at one location not being cleaned and sanitized properly while the placement of overhead lights were deemed unacceptable at others.

Fehr said it's even difficult to compare arenas across the country as different provinces have different standards.

"The way we record our observations could differ and the way we define things," he said.

There are 35 different vendors at the Saddledome, said Vaillant, offering everything from hamburgers and hotdogs to carved beef sandwiches and chicken fingers.

Each year, roughly 1.5 million people attend events at the Saddledome, said Vaillant, and there has never been an outbreak of food-born illness.


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