Wednesday, May 18, 2005

In 2003 the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 5,620 nonfatal fingertip amputations in private workplaces that resulted in at least one lost day of work. 300 of those occurred in leisure, hospitality, and food workplaces. No specific statistics are available on how often amputated extremities end up in the food supply, so I thought I would start to collect some.

A few weeks ago a 23-yr-old man named Brandon Fizer accidentally stuck his hand in a mixing machine while working for Kohl’s Frozen Custard. It was lopped off at the first knuckle. Though this was the second time in one year an employee had lost their finger in this same machine, the company was not held liable, AND no one bothered to recall the frozen custard that the machine was responsible for producing.

Clarence Stowers found the finger, and refused to give it to the shops owner or to the doctor who was treating Fizer, even though it was found early enough to be reattached (within 6 hours). In fact, it was found 30 minutes after the accident. Stowers refused to give it back because he thought it would hurt his evidence, and because he was holding out to test if for “all the diseases that are out here now”.

Paul Lombardo, a professor of law at the University of Virginia, says “The man who lost the finger has a superior claim. It’s his finger and he might be able to use it.”

In December 2004 a Las Vegas man named Brian Paul Rossiter got his finger stuck in a truck lift while working at a paving company. His digit was mangled and severed, leaving him with an angry inch and a trophy.

For a while he went around showing it to people, prompting his mother to remark "It's like a man thing. If a woman had her finger severed, she would never show it to anyone. But he would show it to the girls in the office if they asked." Referring to the phone call from her son informing her that he was the owner of the finger she’d heard about on TV, his mother said “The last time he said something like that to me was 9/11.”

Rossiter was working class, poor, lost his disability checks, and owed money. He owed $50 to James Plascencia for having lost a wager, so decided to settle the bet with his 1.5” fingertip. Plascencia gave the fingertip to his wife, Anna Ayala, who is now being charged with grand larceny for pretending to find said finger in a bowl of Wendy’s chili, and a felony account of theft because Wendy’s lost millions of dollars in business over the hype.

Summer, 2004: A woman named Marina Andrivnannikova was finishing her man’s take-out salad. She said that it was “good until I bit on something hard. At first, I didn’t realize what it was. Then I noticed a nail and some flesh.” She sued Rue 57 Brasserie for $3 million. The restaurant denied that it was a finger, until they found out that an employee has lost his finger at work. The lawsuit charged the restaurant with negligence and blamed the employee for failing to determine the location of his severed fingertip.

June, 2004: David Shielding, 58, of Tipp City, Ohio bit into his Arby’s grilled chicken sandwich and realized something wasn’t right. He took it out of his mouth and “It looked like I was seeing fingerprints on it, I got sick and went to the bathroom.” He is suing for $25,000. An unidentified Arby’s manager with a bandaged right thumb told Miami Country health investigators he sliced flesh from his right thumb the previous day while shredding lettuce. The manager said he had cleaned and sanitized the area, but did not discard a nearby bin of lettuce.

On Tuesday, March 2, 2004 a 22-year old woman found the severed tip of a thumb in her lunch salad at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers. A worker was chopping lettuce the night before when he cut off part of his thumb, including part of the fingernail. Employees searched for the fingertip and couldn’t find it. They cleaned and sanitized the area, then put the lettuce in the fridge to be used the next day. The woman had eaten most of the salad when she bit into the fingertip. She thought it was a piece of gristle.

On Friday, Dec. 19, 2003 Zabiha Halal butcher Yaseen Mahmeet was rushing to fill orders before the Sabbath. He caught his left hand in the meat grinding machine and lost an entire finger. These were Mahmeet’s comments:

“I look at other side and seen it don’t look to bad since I got the nine fingers left. I bag it and move on to the next order. It’s not too much bad I think to be eat it. I wash it the hand this morning.”

So far the butcher has lost three toes, one finger, and part of his ear to the machine. A child nearly choked to death after eating a samosa containing one of his toenail clippings. Due to the speed at which Mahmeet works, restaurants are clamoring for his meat.

On Friday June 27, 2002 a woman bought a Bibimbap (Korean rice ball) at a local Lawson’s convenience store in Northern Japan. The finger was traced to a worker at Nihon Fresh Delica, the company that makes bentos for Lawson’s. He had accidentally severed it while using a knife. Much bowing ensued, but no reparations.

April 8, 2002: Bonlac Foods Limited was convicted and fined $60,000 Australian in relation to safety breaches that twice injured a male employee. On January 16, 2001, employee Carl McCann’s finger on his left hand was severed to the second joint when it became caught in an unguarded cavity of a cheese molding machine. At the time of the incident, the employee was trying to clear a build-up of hot cheese that had mounted on the plate while the machine was in operation. After recovering, McCann returned to work. On June 3, 2001 he suffered partial severance of the middle finger of his right hand when a supreme feed auger blade rolled over his finger. He was again attempting to clear a cheese blockage. The fingers were never found.

2001: Colorado resident Juan Sanchez-Marchez drank a bottle of Ora Potency Fruit Punch. Near the bottom he realized that there were chunks of sediment. Among these was a 3 inch intact section of a human penis. Vancol Industries Inc, the company that produces the drinks, believes that the body part was put into the bottle after it was shipped to Colorado, because the production date is a year prior and there are no preservatives in the liquid. If it had happened at the factory, the penis would have been rotten. Emmanuel, Sanchez-Marchez’s son, said “It scares me, because I don’t know if that that thing was infected or something, and I’m worried about my dad.”

Said Sanchez-Marchez “I think somebody try to play a joke on me. It was not a joke.”

In January 2001 a female student at Barnstable High School in Massachusetts spat out a piece of thumb while eating a turkey and tomato sandwich. Upon investigation it was found to belong to a cafeteria worker who had severed the top of her thumb in a vegetable sliver the day before. She claimed to have cleaned and sanitized the area, but did not discard the food. A spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Health said “Blood-borne diseases cannot be transmitted through food. We understand this is very upsetting, but there is no public health risk, and we want to make sure people know that.”

2000: A 19-year old pregnant Swedish woman named Caroline Bengtsson found part of a severed finger in a handful of frozen prawns that she had bought at the supermarket. She said “It was disgusting just to hold it my hand. I felt sick and thought of a dead corpse and of other things I might have already eaten.”

In 1993 a prison inmate named Dennis Hayes was using a band saw to cut a frozen block of beef when it slipped. The machine caught the nylon glove that the prison required him to wear and his hand was pulled into the machine, severing the tip of his thumb. He brought a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice stating he had not been provided with correct wire mesh gloves for the job. The 11 woman, one man jury returned a verdict stating the accident was a fault of the prisoner’s negligence. The thumb was never found.

On January 2, 1987, Freddie Ureno, his wife, his brother Phillip, and Phillip’s wife sat down to eat a yummy can of menudo (beef tripe stewed in hominy with chili powder). They were horrified to find a two inch piece of finger, with the fingernail still attached. They took it to the hospital for identification, and it was officially called a finger until the company that made the canned menudo, Juanita’s foods, announced that they had no chopped extremities, and that factory workers wore wire mesh gloves to prevent just such an accident.

The USDA came to the rescue, sending federal inspectors to look at the finger. They found that it was not a finger, but a piece of connective tissue commonly found in tripe, this one just hadn’t been ground sufficiently.