Louisville health officials work to prevent sickness at Ky. Derby


LMPHW’s Food Safety Program inspects various events besides Oaks and Derby including Thunder Over Louisville, Pegasus Parade and Fest-A-Ville.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Every year the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health & Wellness works behind the scenes at the Kentucky Derby to ensure the safety of everyone attending.

The department works to prevent fans from leaving Churchill Downs with anything more than their winnings, like food poisoning.

LMPHW’s Food Safety Program inspects various events besides Oaks and Derby including Thunder Over Louisville, the Pegasus Parade and Fest-A-Ville.

According to LMPHW, inspectors will conduct more than 300 inspections this year for and during Derby events.

“Our goal is to protect residents and visitors from foodborne illness, which can be a very serious health matter,” Connie Mendel, senior deputy of the LMPHW, said.

RELATED: Kentucky Derby 148: What you need to know before heading to Churchill Downs

Mendel said LMPHW verifies food safety knowledge of vendors, checks for good hygienic policies, makes sure food is cooked and stored at the right temperatures and makes sure cross contamination is prevented.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that an estimated 48 million people in the U.S. get sick from foodborne illnesses every year. Of those, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die.

“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 food trucks and street food vendors, have to have a permit if they plan on having people buy and consume food. Vendors then get educational materials and consultation with inspectors.

Symptoms of food-borne illness:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Body aches

LMPHW said these symptoms may appear 12-72 hours after consumption of contaminated food, but could appear as soon as 30 minutes to four weeks later.

To report a potential foodborne illness, click here to send an email to LMPHW or call 502-574-6650.

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