Industry News | April 22, 2005

Wendy’s Chili Customer Arrested

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On March 22 in San Jose, California, Wendy’s customer Anna Ayala found a finger in her bowl of chili. Ayala reportedly spit out the digit and warned those around her to stop eating. She then became ill.

Wendy’s temporarily closed that location to allow health officials to seize the remaining chili and all of the chain’s stock ingredients in order for the food to be inspected and traced back to their manufacturer. According to Ben Gale, county director environmental resources, after confirmation that the Wendy’s employee’s possessed “all 10 of their fingers,” inspectors began to look at the manufacturing plant that processed the meat for the chili. Investigators turned up no leads; suspicion has since fallen on Ayala.

Less than a month after her initial claim, Ayala decided not to sue Wendy’s citing emotional distress. Court records show this isn’t the first time Ayala made legal claims against corporations. In fact, Ayala says she received $30,000 from El Pollo Loco after her daughter became ill from her meal. El Pollo Loco officials say Ayala received no payment.

In the meantime, Wendy’s offered a $50,000 reward for information that would identify the origin of the finger; the reward has since been raised to $100,000. “It’s very important to us to find out what really happened at the restaurant,” says Wendy’s spokesman, Denny Lynch. “We will continue to fully cooperate with the police investigation.” Wendy’s has even had employees undergo polygraph tests and “there is no credible evidence that Wendy’s is the source of the foreign object,” says Tom Mueller, president and chief executive, Wendy’s. Sales have dropped at Northern California franchises forcing layoffs and reduced hours, says the company.

Fast forward to last night, Ayala was arrested in Las Vegas. Police refuse to give details until a news conference to be held this afternoon in San Jose.

Wendy’s maintains the finger did not come from any of its ingredients.

News and information presented in this release has not been corroborated by QSR, Food News Media, or Journalistic, Inc.