COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – NBC4 Investigates reviewed health inspection reports at some of Ohio’s most popular attractions for family fun during the summer.
Dr. Riza Conroy, a family physician at OSU Wexner Medical Center has one word of advice to prevent foodborne illness during the warmer months: “Chill, chill, chill, chill,” she said. “That’s how you preserve and prevent bacteria or virus from growing.”
Food being stored at improper temperatures was a violation that came up when Erie County health inspectors visited eight vendors at Cedar Point in 2021. According to health inspection reports from the Erie County health department, most of that food was thrown out.
In one case, a Subway restaurant was closed because it didn’t have proper refrigeration. A second Subway, where an inspector found warm tomatoes and no soap at the employee hand sink, is also currently closed, according to the health department.
Inspectors also found there was no hot water – or no place to wash hands or dishes at three of the park’s Dippin’ Dots stands, out of several inside the park. Conroy says washing hands goes a long way to prevent illness.
“There’s that chance of the virus to grow,” Conroy said. “Especially when you’re handling it, and you have not really cleaned your food you’ve touched like doorknobs, you’ve touched other surfaces that other people are touching.”
“As I understand it… the two minor notes for those stands were corrected,” a park spokesperson said in an email, telling NBC4 no one was available for an interview.
The renowned amusement park has dozens of vendors. Most of them were not cited for any critical, or more serious, violations.
At King’s Island in Mason, Ohio, Warren County health inspectors found critical violations at six of the park’s vendors. None of those violations involved food temperature. All of the issues were corrected before the inspector left, according to the reports.
“While it’s rare, when we are made aware of an issue, we work with health officials to make sure it is corrected immediately,” a spokesman from King’s Island said in a statement.
At the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Delaware County health inspectors spotted critical violations at two out of 14 vendors. Those violations included spiders and spider webs in the storage room at the Lakeside Pavilion and flies at the Shores Park Café.
A zoo spokesperson said those issues were all resolved. She said the zoo voluntarily hired a third party firm to inspect the vendors four times a year, in addition to two inspections by local public health officials.
“The Columbus Zoo family of parks continues to invest in improving food safety, quality and consistency as a part of our broader investment in our guest experience,” the spokesperson said.
While the vast majority of inspection reports NBC4 reviewed for this report showed vendors were keeping their spaces clean and safe, Conroy said it never hurts to do your own mini-inspection.
“Does it look clean? Do people wear masks, especially now with the pandemic? Especially if they’re the ones preparing the food? Are the workers cleaning their hands before handing the food? Or are they wearing gloves?”
If you are planning to bring your own food somewhere on a hot day, Conroy emphasized the importance of chilling uncooked food, and cooking food thoroughly.
If you do catch a stomach bug from something you eat, Conroy said the most important thing is to stay hydrated. She said the most common mistake parents make is making their kids drink too much fluid too quickly. She suggests giving them small servings spaced out, to ensure the water gets properly absorbed.