Public Health & Wellness at Kentucky Derby festivities to protect fans from foodborne illness

May 05, 2022

Did you know that every Kentucky Derby season the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health & Wellness (LMPHW) is working behind the scenes to prevent fans from walking away with more than their winnings, like a bout with food poisoning? LMPHW’s Food Safety Program conducts inspections at various events including Thunder Over Louisville, the Pegasus Parade, Fest-a-Ville, Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby. LMPHW’s food safety inspectors will conduct more than 300 inspections this year in preparation for and during the Kentucky Derby events.

“Our goal is to protect residents and visitors from foodborne illnesses, which can be a very serious health matter,” said Connie Mendel, senior deputy director at LMPHW. “We do this by verifying food safety knowledge, checking for good hygienic practices, making sure food is cooked and stored at the right temperatures and making sure cross-contamination is being prevented.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 48 million people in the United States get sick from a foodborne illness each year. Of those, about 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.

Symptoms of a foodborne illness usually surface anywhere from 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food but can appear as soon as 30 minutes to four weeks later. The symptoms to look out for include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, fever, headache and body aches.

“While anyone can get food poisoning, the most at risk include pregnant women, young children, older adults and those with compromised immune systems,” Mendel said.

All establishments, including mobile food trucks, street food vendors, and concessions, that prepare food for the public to buy or consume must have a permit. Upon receiving their permit, temporary vendors receive educational materials and consultation from inspectors. For annual permits, operators must have a Certified Food Manager’s certificate, which is obtained by passing a food safety class approved by LMPHW.

The Food Safety Program investigates reported illnesses connected with food establishments. To report a potential foodborne illness email [email protected] or call 502-574-6650. It is important to provide a 48-hour food history along with a history of recent activities.

LMPHW ‘s public health preparedness team is also present at each event’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and additionally, the hazmat team has members on call 24/7 who are prepared to respond to any large incidents.


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Louisville Metro Department of Public Health & Wellness (LMPHW) is a nationally accredited, independent, academic health department committed to achieving health equity and improving the health and well-being of all Louisville residents and visitors. 


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