They’re called “mealbreakers” — disgusting surprises found in food items as they are being eaten or are about to be eaten. Each time we hear stories of them, we’re horrified, and rightfully so. After all, almost all of the food we consume has been at least partially handled or prepared by someone else, making it natural for us to wonder, “What could someone have done with or put into my food?”
The truth is that such fears are, more often than not, unfounded. Food safety standards are strictly enforced in most developed countries, and if food producers and handlers consistently abided by government-issued guidelines, consumers would have nothing to worry about. But that’s a big “if.” Once in a while, someone slips up, and when that happens, some unfortunate consumer suffers the stomach-turning consequences.
Here are ten of the most god-awful things people have found in their food:
10. Dead Mouse in Bread Loaf
In January of 2009, Stephen Forse of Kidlington, Oxfordshire was preparing sandwiches for his family when he noticed something dark embedded in the corner of his bread loaf. At first, he assumed that the irregularity was dough that had not been properly mixed. However, a closer inspection revealed that the dark object had fur on it. After preparing new sandwiches from another loaf of bread, Forse called the Cherwell District Council, who sent health officers to collect evidence. One of those officers then identified the furry object as a mouse with its tail missing, causing Forse to feel even worse. “Had it [the tail] fallen off prior to the bread being wrapped or had any of my family eaten it with another slice of bread on a previous day?” the worried father wondered. Premier Foods, the company responsible for the bread, eventually apologized for the incident but was nevertheless fined more than £16,000.
9. Condom in Hamburger
In 2007, Van Miguel Hartless, a student from Green Mountain College in Vermont, claimed that after he had taken three bites out of a Southwestern Whopper from Burger King, he saw a condom in it. “It had a sour taste, and I felt something rubbery,” the 24-year-old junior recounted. Claiming that the incident resulted in his “sustained pain and suffering, vomiting, nightmares, and mental and emotional distress,” Hartless filed suit. Meanwhile, Burger King conducted its own investigation of the case and analyzed relevant surveillance video, the results of which prompted the fast food chain to file a countersuit. However, in 2010, the parties agreed to an out-of-court settlement with each side dropping their claims and agreeing to pay their own legal costs.
8. Cockroach in Hash Brown
This story caught the public’s attention on May 15, 2012, when a Reddit user with the nick “LinkBoyJT” posted the disturbing picture above. He captioned it: “I was eating a hash brown from McDonald’s on the way home when I felt something on the bottom…” He wasn’t sure what the thing was, but fellow-Redditors identified the creature as a cockroach. LinkBoyJT also described how he had shown the manager of the restaurant what he had found in his food and how the manager hadn’t seemed too concerned. She simply marked his receipt then promised him a free breakfast the next time he came in.
7. Chicken Head in Box of Chicken Wings
Yes, McDonald’s again. This one took place in Newport News, Virginia on November 28, 2000. At that time, McDonald’s was test-marketing fried chicken wings in the area, and Katherine Ortega ordered a box for her and her 5-year-old son to try. Shockingly, as the family was eating, she realized that one of the “wings” was actually a deep-fried chicken head, complete with eyeballs, a beak, and even the chicken’s red comb. Ortega then proceeded to call a local news agency, which at first thought the claim was a hoax. However, when the cameraman inspected the chicken head, he saw that the batter on the chicken head was an “exact match of all the rest of the pieces of chicken.” Later, Ortega met with the franchise owner of the concerned McDonald’s branch, but the outcome of the talks has been kept secret.
6. Bloody Band Aid in Pizza
On June 8, 2011, Ken Wieczerza of Ballston Lake, New York ordered a large supreme pizza from a Pizza Hut branch in Clifton Park. He ate a few pieces, then kept the rest in the refrigerator as he loved snacking on cold pizza leftovers. However, when he bit into a piece the following day, he felt something strange in his mouth: a bandage. Worse, the blue strip appeared to have spots of blood on it. “It felt kind of like biting into a folded-up piece of plastic,” Wieczerza recalled. He later tried to talk it out with the restaurant, but its representatives stopped communicating with him when they learned that Ken wanted to be reimbursed for blood work and tests to ensure that he didn’t catch anything. That’s when the German approached the media, thus forcing a Pizza Hut spokesman to address the controversy. “The safety of our customers is our top priority…. We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused our valued customer,” a Pizza Hut-issued statement read.
5. Reptile Head in Bag of Veggies
On January 27, 2015, Cassondra Marshall of Churchill Falls, Canada had just finished eating dinner when she saw something strange in her bowl of vegetables. Upon closer inspection, she identified the coin-sized object as the severed head of some type of reptile. “I was disgusted and the worst part is we only have the head, so makes you wonder where the rest of it is,” Marshall ranted. The salad was made from two bags of Green Giant vegetables, one a bag of broccoli and the other a bag of bean and carrot medley, both purchased at a Walmart in Labrador City. Meanwhile, a representative from General Mills, the mother company of Green Giant, has communicated with Marshall, and revealed that the matter was being looked into.
4. Maggots in Bag of Rice
One day in January of 2015, 12-year-old Maisy Dean Hollinshead from Reddish, U.K. was getting ready to eat the Morrisons Boil-in-the-Bag Rice that she had prepared when she noticed something strange about it. Nestled in the grains of rice were several elongated lumps, which were later identified to be maggots. Maisy showed the discovery to her mother, Jenny, who was horrified when she realized that the bag came in a box from which she and her daughter had already consumed three bags. Days later, after the company had been contacted by Jenny and vilified on social media, Morrisons ended up apologizing to the family and investigating the matter.
3. Toenail in Pasta Sauce
In September of 2012, a discount supermarket in Cambridgeshire, England received a disturbing complaint from 46-year-old Tracy Arnold. She claimed that her daughter had found a huge toenail in the spaghetti bolognese Tracy had prepared from ingredients bought at their store, Aldi. More specifically, Tracy had purchased pasta sauce and minced beef from the supermarket. “It was the most disgusting thing I have ever found in food in my life. It was huge; it looked like it had been cut,” said the horrified mother. The day after the discovery, Tracy brought the toenail to the store, but was disappointed by what she perceived as the head office’s lack of attention to her demands: a refund for her grocery expenses, a recall of the products in question, and a thorough investigation of the incident.
2. Dead Bat in Cereal
Mini-Zimties are made with a variety of organic ingredients, including cinnamon, brown sugar, and corn chips. However, in 2012, a man in Germany was shocked to find a special component in his bowl of Mini-Zimties: a mummified bat. Authorities conducted an investigation to find out how the bat had ended up in the box of cereal, and they concluded that it was highly unlikely that the animal had made it through the manufacturing process without being noticed. Instead, the more likely scenario, the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Offices believed, was that the bat must have somehow flown into the cereal’s packaging, where it later suffocated. Jorg Sturmer, a food safety official admitted, “I have never seen anything like it. This really is an unusual case.”
1. Tampon in Steak Dinner
In 2009, Axel Sanz-Claus from Germany, was visiting New York and decided to have dinner at the Bull and Bear Steak House located in a Waldorf-Astoria hotel. He ordered a steak and spinach meal, and was in the middle of eating it when he suddenly couldn’t swallow something in his mouth. Spitting the object out, Sanz-Claus was shocked to see what appeared to be a tampon. After rinsing out his mouth with brandy and vomiting in the bathroom, the hotel called an ambulance, which brought the tourist to the emergency room of the New York Presbyterian. There, a doctor cut the object in half and confirmed that it was a blood-soaked tampon. As a precautionary measure, the man was tested for hepatitis and was told to have himself tested for HIV after two months. However, the Waldorf-Astoria doubted Sanz-Claus’s claim and labeled the incident to be “highly suspicious.”