For the most part, people know what they’re getting when they hit up a fast food joint. You can generally expect a meal that’s somewhat pre-made, served to you in a quick manner to get you in and out the door. What most people aren’t expecting is to find something revolting or dangerous in their burger and fries.
Even with nearly every fast food chain maintaining a strict food assembly protocol for employees, the food is made quickly and, well, the quicker you rush something, the greater the probability of slip-ups. Unfortunately, for every false claim of fast food horror like the Wendy’s finger in the chili incident, there seems to be a factual story ready to take its place. If you’ve already sworn off fast food, this list is only going to reaffirm your position on avoiding the stuff. However, if you consider yourself devotee of the fast food fan base, well, that might soon change.
Behold, a few of the grossest things customers have found in their fast food orders. Do yourself a favor and don’t read this on your lunch break. You’ve been warned.
Bandages make terrible pizza toppings
Allow us to paint a truly nauseating scenario for you. You stroll into the kitchen and open up the fridge to grab a cold slice of leftover pizza. You take a bite and soon realize that it’s not just a really chewy pepper you’re munching on but a used bandage — oh, and there’s some dried blood on it.
That’s exactly what Ken Wieczerza of Ballston Lake, New York claimed happened when he ordered a pizza from Pizza Hut in 2011. "It felt kind of like biting into a folded-up piece of plastic," Wieczera recalled. "I can’t think of anything more disgusting than chewing on a bandage, other than a body part. Fortunately, I didn’t swallow it."
The blue bandage had allegedly been baked into the crust by a careless employee. After making the horrifying discovery, Wieczera sealed it in a plastic bag to bring to Pizza Hut’s attention. Wieczera insisted that he only wanted Pizza Hut to reimburse him for his blood work testing, but said that the company gave him the cold shoulder. Even though Wieczera said he never showed the slice to the company he said Pizza Hut’s cronies insisted he was wrong and told him that "the bandage style and dough type were not consistent with Pizza Hut protocol."
Ahhh, there it is. Pizza Hut uses a different "bandage style" for their pizza toppings.
"Want a tooth with those fries?"
Japanese cuisine can be pretty far out there when compared with American cuisine, but human bone in french fries is no doubt a major gaffe. In 2014, a customer came forward complaining that they had found a human tooth in an order of french fries from an Osaka McDonald’s location.
McDonald’s tested the object and sure enough, it came back positive as a human tooth. If that weren’t disturbing enough, the fast food behemoth had similar troubles with several locations in Japan around the same time, where customers reported finding plastic in a child’s ice cream, and a piece of vinyl in a chicken nugget. Whoops!
As for the tooth, the woman who found it said that the store manager told her it had been "fried," though it was later proven that tooth had not been cooked. Still, we’re not really sure how that makes the discovery any less gross and it certainly didn’t help the company’s revenue.
The company’s Japanese profits had been struggling since 2009 and news of the fast food blunders only made matters worse. By 2014, sales had fallen to their lowest since the company went public in 2001 and McDonald’s didn’t bounce back in Japan until 2017. Ouch.
Burger King might have a needle problem
Few things ruin a delicious breakfast sandwich more than a hidden needle, and that’s what Angelina Cruz claimed she bit into back in 2001. Cruz said that she had stopped at Burger King for breakfast in Astoria, New York and bought a sausage and egg croissant sandwich on her way to work.
It was after the second bite, however, that Cruz said she felt immediate pain. "I took a bite and then a second when I felt something inside my cheek, I started bleeding," Cruz said. The woman hired an attorney and filed an $11 million lawsuit against Burger King for pain and mental suffering. A spokesperson for Burger King at the time said "they were deeply troubled" and "investigating."
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much information as to whether the lawsuit was ever settled, but at least Burger King learned a valuable lesson.
Fast forward 10 years and a similar incident allegedly happened to Clark Bartholomew while eating at a Burger King in Honolulu, Hawaii. Bartholomew brought a lawsuit against the company claiming that one needle in his sandwich had pierced his tongue and another lodged itself in his small intestine.
After making Bartholomew jump through legal hoops that had him traveling back and forth from his home in Virginia to Hawaii, Burger King eventually settled for $50,000 in 2015. Apparently BK’s "have it your way" motto comes with a few painful stipulations.
One Arby’s sandwich had the meats… and more
Arby’s may "have the meats," they just may not be the type of meats you want on your sandwich. David Scheiding said that he was eating at an Arby’s in Tipp City, Ohio when he bit into his chicken sandwich and realized he was chewing on… human skin!
"It looked like I was seeing fingerprints on it," Scheiding said. "I got sick and went to the bathroom."
Apparently, a piece of flesh around three quarters of an inch in length had been sliced off an employee’s thumb while cutting lettuce. The manager who was cutting the lettuce said that he sanitized the area, but didn’t throw away the bin of lettuce and, well, you can guess what happened next.
Scheiding went on to sue Arby’s for $50,000 and rejected the fast food company’s initial offer to settle. Arby’s understandably didn’t care to offer much detail pertaining to the lawsuit. When pressed by reporters, the company gave the standard pr response saying that it was "committed to providing our guests with quality food in a comfortable and safe environment."
Wings with a side of chicken head
One of the most notorious cases of a gross item showing up in somebody’s fast food order is arguably the McDonald’s chicken head incident. The story quickly went viral for the sheer shock of the image of a deep fried chicken head that McDonald’s customer Katherine Ortega allegedly found in her order.
In 2000, Ortega said that she had bought McDonald’s now-discontinued wings from a Newport News, Virginia location and while putting the wings on a plate for her children, pulled out the grisly fried surprise.
"I noticed that it had a beak and it had eyes," Ortega said. "I screamed."
The meal of course was ruined, and when she contacted the McDonald’s location about the head they offered her a refund or box of free wings. Nice try, McDonald’s.
Ortega went on to hire a lawyer and contact the the U.S. Department of Agriculture about investigating the case. It seems though that the investigation came to a standstill with no real conclusion to whether Ortega was part of a hoax, there was a mishap at the poultry processing plant, or a McDonald’s employee simply orchestrated a gross prank. Either way, it’s all pretty McNasty.
The McNugget’s feather incident
Unfortunately, the chicken head incident hasn’t been the only time the golden arches has had an issue with unwanted chicken byproduct finding its way into food.
Raquel House found out the gross way in 2012 that McDonald’s white meat chicken McNuggets weren’t all white meat when she allegedly found a feather in one of them. The Elkhart, Indiana resident described feeling like there was hair in her mouth when she bit into the nugget. "I looked at my food and there was feathers coming off the nugget," House said.
McDonald’s said they would look into the matter to collect the facts regarding the claim, but the local news team beat them to it and reached out to their own expert. "It looks like a small pin feather from broiler type chicken that would be used for meat in just about any kind of processed chicken product, " Charlotte Wolfe, a teacher and farmer with 15 years of experience raising chickens, told ABC 57 News.
House said that while the fast food mishap initially disgusted her and made her angry, it had a silver lining and made her more aware of the food she eats. "It’s opened up an opportunity for me to become more knowledgeable about fast food and the ingredients, House revealed.
McDonald’s buttermilk nail biscuit
Stewart Shook discovered the nail while putting jelly on his biscuit and immediately called 9-1-1 (We’re not sure that qualifies as an emergency, but whatever) before meeting police at the Lebanon McDonald’s to discuss the biscuit nail with management.
The McDonald’s store manager said that she would review camera footage and file a complaint with corporate regarding the mysterious nail. So did McDonald’s come to a conclusion that it was at fault and reward Shook with unlimited nail-free biscuits for life?
Of course not. "Based on our investigation including a review of the video footage we have been so far unable to substantiate the claim," read a statement from the franchise’s owner. "We will continue to investigate so that we can gather all the facts." There doesn’t seem to be much conclusion in the matter regarding who was at fault or if Shook has chosen to get his biscuits some place else.
Subway’s rodent surprise
The past few years haven’t been kind to the Subway sandwich chain that once seemingly found itself in nearly every stip mall of the United States. Some scandals and bad business moves have been far more detrimental to the company than others, but a dead rodent never makes for good publicity.
Matt Jones was eating at a Subway in Lincoln City, Oregon with coworkers back in 2015 when he said one of his coworkers opened up his sandwich and found a dead mouse between the spinach and cheese. Jones said that he and his friend brought both of their sandwiches to the manager’s attention, since both sandwiches had spinach on them.
To Subway’s credit, they took responsibility for the dead mouse and gave the customers a full refund before calling out the local health department to do a full inspection and make the recommended changes. An inspector was able to determine that the rodent had likely entered the restaurant through some of the bagged food products Subway uses.
Yoga mat bread doesn’t sound so revolting when you compare it to a dead mouse foot-long, now does it?
Popeye’s deep fried mouse
How’s that Popeye’s jingle go again? "Love that chicken from Popeyes." Yeah, that’s it. Except there’s not a whole lot to love when your chicken order contains a deep fried mouse.
Baltimore resident and most likely former fan of Popeye’s Chicken, Tony Hill, was eating at the restaurant in 2003 when he bit into a piece of meat in his combo meal and discovered it wasn’t chicken at all, but a dead rodent. While it might have been the first time that a customer discovered a dead mouse in their meal, the restaurant had been temporarily closed twice in previous years for "mouse infestation and unsanitary conditions."
Popeyes remained silent on the matter, but Dr. Peter Beilenson with the Baltimore Health Department did tell the press that it appeared to be a "legitimate complaint," though they did not find evidence of an infestation at the restaurant. On the plus side, you can eat at competitor KFC with the comfort of knowing that your chicken tender might only look like a fried rat.
Taco Bell’s extra ingredient for crunchy nachos
People seem to either love Taco Bell or resort to it only when nothing else is open and they need something that pairs well with being drunk. The restaurant has certainly had some unwanted controversy with its ground beef, but it doesn’t compare to what a Florida woman allegedly found in her food.
In 2015, Kailynn Roland and her boyfriend went through a Florida Taco Bell drive-thru and placed an order of nachos. Roland allegedly discovered an acrylic French-tip nail in the bottom of her nachos and immediately became "physically ill."
Roland shared the unwanted Nacho ingredient with local news outlets and contacted Taco Bell regarding the matter. And Taco Bell’s response? A peace offering of $40 in Taco Bell gift cards so that Roland could presumably order more nachos — without fake fingernails mixed in.
Roland reportedly refused their gift cards and doesn’t plan to "Live Más" by ordering Taco Bell anytime soon.
Nothing ruins a taco like poop
As gross as finding an acrylic nail in your nachos is, it just doesn’t register as high on the barf-o-meter as poop in a taco. Way back in 1997, a couple in Cottonwood Heights, Utah brought a lawsuit against Taco Bell, claiming that their 10-year-old son had found a piece of fecal matter in one of his soft-shell tacos.
After eating one taco and discovering the "blob of excrement" that was the size of "smashed Junior Mint" in the wrapper of his second taco, well, the first taco didn’t stay in his stomach long.
As for how the fecal matter got in the wrapper, that’s where things are a little cloudy. The health department was able to confirm that it was feces, but no food was found on it. The investigation also couldn’t confirm that it was ever in contact with food and the half-eaten taco, along with two other unopened tacos were found to be clear of fecal matter too.
It definitely wasn’t the publicity that Taco Bell was looking for, considering they had just weathered a hepatitis outbreak in their restaurants two years earlier. A criminal investigation yielded no concrete evidence in the case and the parents said the event had caused their son to have "behavioral reactions to the traumatic event." Obviously. Nobody wants to be the kid in school known for eating a poop taco.
More than just buns in those bread bags
If you store any sort of grain or bread in large quantities, you’re just going to have to accept that you’ll be in constant battle with rodents. It’s precisely why cats are frequently used as rat defense everywhere from ships and barns, to bodegas. Fast food restaurants of course, don’t have the advantage of a cat on rodent defense.
Two very recent examples of rodents running amok at fast food restaurants took place at both a Wendy’s and Burger King location. In June 2018, an employee at a Wendy’s in Catoosa, Oklahoma shared cell phone footage of mice scurrying in a bag of hamburger buns and leading the restaurant to be temporarily shut down for health inspection.
Just a few weeks prior to the Wendy’s incident, Shantel Johnson shared footage on Facebook of rodents also inside hamburger bags at a Burger King in Wilmington, Delaware. Johnson made sure to include a few rat and skull emojis with her caption "Don’t go to Burger King on [Route] 202," to help drive the point home.
Health officials swooped in the very next day and ordered a temporary closure of the Burger King, citing it as an "imminent health hazard" after finding rodent droppings.
Condoms don’t belong in Happy Meals
What kid doesn’t love a McDonald’s Happy Meal? The kid who finds a condom in their french fries that’s who. In 2009, police in Switzerland responded to a complaint about a 7-year-old girl who had allegedly found a condom in her very unhappy Happy Meal. An investigation was launched to determine how the condom got into the child’s meal, though there doesn’t seem to be much follow up evidence regarding the story.
However, it doesn’t appear to be the only time a prophylactic has been found in McDonald’s Happy Meals. In 2007, Rowan Hutch and his wife were horrified when they bought a Happy Meal for their granddaughter at a New Zealand McDonald’s and said they discovered a green condom in the bag. Thankfully, they found it before their granddaughter. "The fact my granddaughter was going to look in the bag and find this thing," said Hutch. "It would be difficult to explain, she’s only seven."
McDonald’s spokesperson Joanna Redfern-Hardisty explained that the previous toy had sold out and an alternative had been swapped in place. The display toy, complete with a condom "somehow" also finding its way into the bag.
A police officer found cleaning solution in his McDonald’s drink
Most of the fast food mishaps on our list are hopefully by accident, however, this entry crosses the line from careless to malicious. In 2018, a Kansas police officer hit up a McDonald’s drive-thru, only to become ill with "flu-like symptoms" not long after. The officer hadn’t come down with a flu virus, but instead had allegedly been poisoned by an employee who put a few squirts of a peroxide-based cleaner used for wiping down counters into the officer’s drink.
It was only two weeks after the illness that police learned about the poisoning when a McDonald’s employee came forward and ratted out 22-year-old Trevor Hockaday as the drive-thru culprit. Hockaday was arrested and charged with aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer. The charge carries a hefty maximum sentence of nearly 21 years in prison. Hockaday was also suspended by McDonald’s — but that’s probably the least of his worries at this point.
It would be nice if this were the only account of police officers being poisoned via fast food, but that likely isn’t the case. Another investigation was launched in September 2018 regarding a Florida police officer who said his tongue went numb after eating Taco Bell burritos. Upon further inspection, he noticed the burritos had the odor of bleach and contacted Taco Bell and law enforcement about the matter.