Here’s how inspectors check food and rides as Arizona State Fair opens

Amusement rides have been to be checked annually by an insurance inspector.
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 12:01 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- An estimated 1.6 million people are expected to visit the Arizona State Fair. Among the attractions awaiting fair-goers, there are more than 100 food vendors and 65 rides. All of them are inspected.

“I look at a ride like my friends and family are going to come out here and ride,” said Al Scanlan, a third-party ride inspector who has worked with the Arizona State Fair for decades. He and his team inspect every ride at least once before the fair opens. They also conduct several daily inspections and spot checks throughout the event, evaluating everything from latches to padding, and the bolts that hold the ride together. “Obviously you have a bunch of mechanical stuff out here and you don’t want failure,” Scanlan said.

States have different rules about amusement ride safety. In Arizona, there are no state inspections, but by law portable amusement rides must be inspected annually, often by an insurance inspector. Scanlan says it is rare to uncover safety issues that require an immediate fix. “We have different degrees of is this something I absolutely want fixed before the ride opens or is this [a recommendation?],” he said. “Some of the rides have stairs. I can’t make somebody paint the edge of their steps yellow, but it does help for trip hazards, so I’ll make a recommendation.”

From rides that can turn stomachs to the food that fills it, county inspectors verify permits for food stands. They check food temperatures and ensure workers are washing their hands. “We have a team of inspectors coming out twice during the season for this event,” said Vas Hofer, the managing supervisor for the Maricopa County Environmental Services Department. “We want to make sure that all of these patrons that are coming out to the fairgrounds are having a good experience and we’re just trying to minimize the risk of foodborne illness.”

According to Hofer, most inspections can be completed in less than an hour. “We often will run into issues and it’s more of an educational opportunity, so if we see something we’ll address it. It’s not atypical. Obviously, when you’re doing something this vast, it’s not a-typical to run across issues, but we’re here to educate and correct the items.”