Many food service providers at NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL venues face serious violations.
Credit: Getty: fstop123

The Internet is shuddering in a collective response to a new ESPN investigative report published today, which dives deep into the surprisingly filthy world of food served at professional sporting stadiums across the nation. Journalists at ESPN analyzed more than 16,000 routine food-safety inspections that took place at 111 stadiums in North America between 2016 and 2017—including venues used within the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL.

The report showed almost one-third of venues across the country incurred one, if not more, high-level health code violations at half or more of their various food outlets. What is a "high-level violation," exactly? It means a food service outlet operates in such unsanitary conditions that food produced in these spaces would likely pose a risk for foodborne illnesses, such as E.coli.

Some examples from the report: raw ground beef for burgers and raw fish used in sushi being kept at unsafe temperatures, allowing them to breed potentially life-threatening bacteria before being served; or cooks sweating over food as well as other unsanitary prep conditions; or beef blood dripping onto shelves and remaining uncleaned. Details from the ESPN report highlighted what many on the Internet are calling horrifying tales from local health departments’ inspections.

And even if you just opt for a beer during the game, you should reconsider. Beverages were also shown to possess traces of bacteria that could lead to foodborne illnesses, as ice is often scooped with unwashed hands.

Interested in avoiding unsanitary bacteria? Read on:

Which stadiums had the worst offenders, you may ask? Those visiting Charlotte, North Carolina, may want to think twice about dining at the Spectrum Center—this stadium was listed as the worst offender on ESPN's report, with 92 percent of their food outlets possessing health code violations in the last two years. Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit (which is now closed) and American Airlines Center in Dallas took second and third for highest violation rates, with 86.11 and 83 percent, respectively.

Golden State Warriors fans can rest easy, however, as the Oracle Arena in Oakland had the fewest violations, with a violation rate of only 1.12 percent. State Farm Arena in Atlanta had the second lowest rates of violations, at 4.17 percent, while NRG Stadium in Houston was a close third, at 4.44 percent.

If you're interested in learning more about the food being served in your local area, ESPN has created an interactive tool to help you understand where they rank on cleanliness and food safety