Welcome to the culinary rollercoaster you never signed up for.
Imagine sitting down for a relaxing meal and finding something in your dish that’s definitely not listed on the menu. We’re not talking about the extra herb or sprinkle of seasoning. Imagine something more along the lines of, well, misplaced human digits.
From the unbelievable to the absurd, we’ve carefully compiled the top 10 most bizarre items that diners have encountered in their restaurant meals.
1. Big Mac with a twist
In a bizarre twist at a McDonald's in Easton, Pennsylvania, William Smith, aged 55, encountered more than he bargained for in his meal. After enjoying his first Big Mac, he bit into the second only to taste something peculiar. To his horror, he discovered a deteriorated condom in his burger. Upon reporting this to the manager, Maria Nijsse, a group of employees were called out, reacting with laughter but offering no explanation.
Smith’s ordeal continued as he left the restaurant feeling unwell, eventually seeking police assistance and medical treatment. The incident led to a lawsuit filed in 1998 against the fast-food giant, citing physical and emotional distress. However, in a turn of events, the lawsuit was dismissed by Judge William F. Moran.
McDonald’s defense claimed Smith had no evidence of harm, while Marie Nijsse stated she did not question her employees as described. This peculiar and unsettling incident left more questions than answers, making it a staple in bizarre fast-food folklore.
2. Frog-flavored soda
In the summer of 2009, Fred Denegri, gearing up to grill dinner for him and his wife, popped open a can of Diet Pepsi and took a swig of what he described as the worst taste he’d ever encountered.
Fred’s soda had become a habitat for a frog.
A subsequent FDA investigation confirmed the presence of the amphibian but couldn’t trace it back to Pepsi’s production facilities.
Fortunately for Fred, the acidic nature of cola kills most pathogens, according to microbiologist Chuck Gerba.
"What's a challenge with this is that lots of bottling plants and lots of processing plants have rather frequent problems with animals getting into their production facility," said Jaydee Hanson, a policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C. "This is one of many examples of why you need a quality control system that works virtually all the time."
3. Lizard head salad
On May 2 2003, in an Applebee's in Illinois, an unsuspecting patron experienced a culinary encounter of the reptilian kind. Imagine digging into a Santa Fe Chicken Salad, only to discover a four-inch lizard head peering back at you. This was the reality for the wife of John Hellstein, a University of Iowa professor of dentistry.
Kot Flora, an assistant director at the health department, conducted tests and confirmed the absence of salmonella. Apple Corp. LP, the parent company of the Applebee's restaurant, extended their apologies, assuring that this was an isolated incident. To prevent future uninvited salad guests, the restaurant switched to pre-cut, pre-cleaned lettuce.
4. Nokia nibbles
In a snack saga from Wisconsin, Emma Schweiger’s routine chip-munching turned into a techno-mystery. Schweiger, an unsuspecting customer, bought two bags of Clancy’s Ripple Potato Chips from the local Aldi store, only to discover a blue and silver Nokia phone nestled among the chips.
The phone, coated in a layer of greasy chip residue, harbored a T-Mobile chip (the tech kind, not potato) and bore the mark of a former belt clip.
Aldi offered Emma a new complimentary bag of chips, but she understandably declined.
5. Grapes of wrath
In a chilling turn of events, a man and his son encountered a menacing stowaway in their bunch of grapes. Jorge Fuertes, a painter, and his son, Jorge Miguel, bought a bag of Anthony's brand red seedless grapes from Whole Foods Market in Brighton, Massachusetts, only to discover that their fruit was hosting not one, but two black widow spiders.
The discovery unfolded during a lunch break, when they noticed spider webs among the grapes and soon saw a black widow, identifiable by its shiny black body and distinctive red hourglass marking, lurking inside. One spider made a quick escape, while the other remained in the bag.
Whole Foods responded promptly, offering a refund and removing similar products from their shelves, while reminding customers that spiders are part of the natural environment where grapes are grown.
Katherine Ortega from Newport, Virginia, faced a shocking surprise in her McDonald's chicken wings order. As she prepared to serve the meal to her children, she discovered something quite out of the ordinary among the bite-sized pieces: a whole, breaded and fried chicken head, complete with beak, eyes, and comb.
Ortega's reaction was of sheer horror, leading to a loss of appetite for the entire family. Opting out of McDonald's offer to replace the chicken box, she chose to make grilled cheese sandwiches instead, vowing to cook more at home.
7. Freshly sliced
John Agnesini, a 27-year-old New Yorker, got more than he bargained for in his Subway cold-cut sandwich. He was nearly cut by a 7-inch serrated blade that was baked into the bun. The horrifying discovery came as he noticed the odd taste of his lunch and found the blade protruding from the sandwich. Agnesini, who bit into the partially melted knife handle, thankfully didn't swallow any part of it, but suffered "severe stomach issues" afterward, suspecting food poisoning from the contaminated sandwich.
Agnesini's lawyer, Yetta Kurland, highlighted the lack of response from Subway and the broader public health implications of such negligence. The incident sparked an investigation, with Subway spokesman Kevin Kane assuring serious attention to food safety and customer feedback.
This alarming incident raises significant concerns about food safety standards, not just in Subway but in the fast-food industry as a whole, emphasizing the critical need for rigorous quality control to ensure such dangerous oversights do not occur.
8. Meth munchies
In late 2023, a shocking lawsuit was filed against Nikko Japanese Steakhouse in Pace, Florida. Three customers claimed they consumed food tainted with methamphetamine, leading to hospitalization. On June 10, 2023, seven people who dined at the restaurant were hospitalized, with three testing positive for meth. The lawsuit alleged that the food leftovers brought home by the patrons also tested positive for methamphetamine.
The restaurant, now closed, faced allegations of selling "defective, dangerous, or otherwise not reasonably fit for consumption" food and beverages. The lawsuit cited strict liability, breach of implied warrant, negligent failure to warn, and negligence, claiming more than $100,000 in damages. This case highlights the grave responsibility of restaurants in ensuring the safety and integrity of their food, with strict liability emphasizing their duty regardless of their care level in food preparation.
9. Finger-lickin’ bad
In a distressing incident at Chopt Creative Salad Co., a customer filed a lawsuit after finding a piece of a human finger in her salad. Allison Cozzi from Greenwich, Connecticut, alleges that she discovered she was chewing on part of a human finger in her salad, purchased on April 7, 2023, from a Chopt location in Mount Kisco, New York. Reportedly, a manager at the restaurant had accidentally severed a piece of her left pointer finger while chopping arugula, which then ended up in the salad served to Cozzi.
The incident led to Cozzi experiencing shock, panic attacks, migraine, cognitive impairment, nausea, dizziness, and neck and shoulder pain. She seeks unspecified monetary damages for her ordeal. Chopt was fined $900 by the Westchester County health department following this incident. This case underscores the importance of stringent safety protocols in food handling and preparation in the restaurant industry.
10. Snake head
Jack Pendleton's pursuit of health at a T.G.I. Friday's Restaurant near Schenectady, New York, took a slithery turn when his veggie side revealed a decomposed reptile head, nestled under the broccoli. Initially mistaking it for a mushroom, this thumb-sized, decomposed head, complete with rotted eye sockets and dangling spine, turned Pendleton’s waiter's stomach and ended Pendleton's carnival plans for the evening.
In a twist more bizarre than the discovery itself, Pendleton decided not to sue. Meanwhile, T.G.I. Friday's Restaurant, still mystified about how the snake made its grand (partial) entrance, pulled broccoli from all suspect sources.
When a foreign object makes its way into a dish or beverage, the consumer can typically file a product liability lawsuit against the restaurant to recover damages. If you’ve encountered an unusual ingredient while dining, it’s important to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to preserve your legal rights and explore your legal options.
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