As you get older, the prospect of finding something unexpected inside of food or drink loses its appeal. Maybe that’s because as products get more mature (from Happy Meals to Big Macs), so too do the surprises waiting inside (from plastic rat to actual rat). But consumers often don’t get a choice. If a manufacturer, fry cook or the gods of chance want to leave a foreign object in your soup, a foreign object is what you shall get.
Take, for example, Fred Denegri, a Florida man who thought he’d found a rodent inside his can of Diet Pepsi. It was a normal night at Fred and Amy Denegri’s backyard tiki bar. A self-described Diet Pepsi addict, Fred popped a can and guzzled like he had done so many times before. But the taste running across his tongue was decidedly more rodent than usual. After tipping the can and shaking, a tail sprang forth and the Denegris were officially grossed out.
The FDA investigated the incident and determined the odd taste was not coming from a mouse, but rather a decomposing frog or toad. Pepsi is still pretty confident that it isn’t their fault. “It is virtually impossible for this type of thing to happen in a production environment,” said Pepsi spokesman Jeff Dahncke. Pepsi lovers that they are, Fred and Amy haven’t switched to Coke but they have started buying bottles, and drinking from glasses.
Finding a mouse or frog in your soda is traumatizing, but finding one in your malt loaf? Well, maybe that’s not quite as bad. Just ask the Ballymoney, Ireland, man who purchased a loaf from his local supermarket. He was lucky enough to see the mouse before biting into it. The bakery that produced the loaf called shenanigans, alleging an act of sabotage, but a local magistrate sided with the customer and levied a £1,000 fine on the bakery.
It’s not surprising that mice make frequent appearances in food, but they’re not the only members of the animal kingdom showing up where they don’t belong. Take the four-inch lizard that was served in a salad at an Applebee’s in Bloomington, IL. The poor little guy, who was completely intact, prompted an investigation by the restaurant and the local health department. The determination? “This was just an extraordinary circumstance,” said Miles McMillin, Applebee’s senior manager of communications.
Other restaurant chains have had their own reptile problems. A T.G.I. Friday’s in upstate New York stands accused of serving Jack Pendelton a snake head in his broccoli. The company claims that analysis shows the snake was never cooked, proof that Pendelton popped the head in there. Neither side has been able to prove its case, but as the Times Union reports, the statute of limitations is five years.
Speaking of cold cases, Chasity Erbaugh found three-quarters of a frog in a bag of Great Value frozen green beans. Erbaugh bought the bag from Wal-Mart, which forced the manufacture to investigate. For her part, Erbaugh maintained a sense of humor. “They didn’t even give me the frog legs with it,” she said.
After returning home from a dessert run to Kohl’s Frozen Custard in North Carolina, Clarence Stowers found a piece of human in his frosty treat. Unfortunately, he didn’t realize there was a severed finger in his custard until after biting down on it. But don’t feel sorry for Sowers, who refused to return the finger to doctors, leaving the newly fingerless Brandon Fizer only able to count to nine. Instead, Stowers hung on to the finger and sued Kohl’s for psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress. As of the last published reports, both sides remain in the evidence discovery phase.
Though Stowers’ behavior was pretty horrible, it was nothing compared to Anna Ayala’s, who planted a finger in a her own Wendy’s chili and attempted to sue the restaurant. Her creative scheme landed her and her husband, who obtained the finger chunk from a friend, in jail for nine and 12 years.
When Philip Hodousek began eating the cheese off the top of his French onion soup from Claim Jumper Restaurant in Mission Viejo, California, he thought the cheese was a little rubbery. Turns out it was latex-y; the cheese wasn’t cheese, but a condom. When Hodousek politely pointed this fact out to the restaurant’s manager, he was told it was in fact a rubber glove. Hodousek’s stomach disagreed as he excused himself to vomit. Once composed, he settled on suing the restaurant for “general damages, specific damages for medical services, medication, drugs, psychological treatment, loss of earnings, and the cost of filing the lawsuit.”
Van Miguel Hartless took the same approach after finding a prophylactic atop his Southwestern Whopper. A student at Green Mountain College, Hartless sued, claiming he had suffered from “vomiting, nightmares and emotional distress.” The case remains unresolved.
When Emma Schweiger of Janesville, Wisconsin, sat down for a crunchy snack early this year, she encountered perhaps the most bizarre shaped chip imaginable. It had a screen, buttons and looked just like a silver Nokia cell phone. Which is exactly what it was. Schweiger purchased the bag of Clancy’s Ripple Potato Chips from a local Aldi, which offered her a free bag of chips for her trouble. She turned them down. “You kind of don’t want chips for a while” after something like that, she said. But once she does, “they will be dumped in the bowl.”
Perhaps Julisa Caba, a 25-year-old mom from Queens, New York, should start cutting up her McDonald’s apple pies before eating them. That would save her the horror of biting into a screw lodged inside of the warm, gooey dessert. “I was like, ‘What the heck is this?’” she said. “I started freaking out.” The McDonald’s where she purchased the pie received a full health inspection. “You never believe something like this when you hear about it,” she said. “But then it happens to you.”
It happened to James Fetters, too. The Florida man bit down on to a two-inch bolt that swam among the bacon and chives in his Outback Steakhouse potato soup and was left with a chipped front tooth. Fetters tracked down the Outback manager, who offered to send him home with his dinner for free. Fetters insisted the restaurant pay to fix his tooth instead, a promise that the company eventually made.
But when it comes to finding metal objects in food, no one can top 17-year-old Ashley Barry, who sat down with a frozen meal that her doting mother purchased for her and discovered a large metal clamp beneath the plastic wrap. The local Aldi that sold the Fit and Active frozen meal pulled the others from its shelves and delivered Barry and her mother two free bags of groceries—no large pieces of metal included. [Image courtesy of WOWT.com.]
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