When you have the urge to pick up some fast food at a drive-thru for a quick bite, you don’t expect the food to bite back.
That’s not exactly what happened to Gina Greeley Elens of Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, but when she bought chicken fingers and fries at the Dairy Queen on Portugal Cove Road in St. John’s Wednesday afternoon she did end up with something sharp stuck in her gums.
“As I began to chew something stuck into my gums. It hurt and I tasted blood, and then I pulled the object out of my gum,” Greeley Elens said. “It looked like the toenail of a chicken foot to me. I wanted to throw up.”
Greeley Elens immediately took her food back to the location. The manager, she said, was very understanding and apologized to her. He offered her a free meal.
“The whole thing made me sick, so I didn’t want another meal,” she said. “He then asked if I wanted my money refunded and I said yes.”
But Greeley Elens also wanted some assurance the matter would be looked into. She said her first thought at the time was what if it happened to a young child who would not have the frame of mind to pull the object out of their mouth right away.
That could cause damage to the child’s mouth, throat or stomach, she said.
“I asked the manager to take a photo of the object,” she said. “The manager did and said he would contact someone and report the matter.”
A manager at the Portugal Cove Road Dairy Queen on Friday afternoon did not want to comment, but said the issue is being looked into at the corporate level.
Dean Peters, director of communications with Dairy Queen International, sent the following statement to The Telegram:
“The safety and well-being of our customers and staff, as always, are our top priorities.
“Although this was an isolated incident that took place at the St. John’s, Newfoundland location on Portugal Cove Road, the consumer did contact us and our franchisee immediately began looking into the matter.
“Our franchisees follow the guidelines set by Health Canada for food safety and strive to ensure operators meet or exceed current industry practices. Our restaurants are required to follow strict food preparation and sanitation procedures as required by their Health Department and consistently pass inspections conducted by those officials.”
Greeley Elens said that when she got home after the incident Wednesday afternoon she searched for photographs of chicken feet on the internet. She said the pictures of claws on chicken feet that she found looked very similar to the object in her food.
“When I got home, and after I rinsed my mouth out with salt water, I looked on the internet for what it could be,” she said. “And I found photos of chicken toenails and that’s what (the object) looks like.”
Greeley Elens said it was then she decided to call the Dairy Queen Canadian Corporate Office in Ontario.
“The person I spoke with took my information and said they would email it to whoever handles these type of issues and someone would get back to me,” she said. “It’s been two days and I haven’t heard anything.”
Greeley Elens has since called the provincial Department of Health and Community Services to report the matter.
She said the reason she has spoken out is because no one from Dairy Queen is getting back to her to let her know what is being done. She said it needs to be investigated to determine how the material ended up in a chicken finger.
While she doesn’t blame Dairy Queen, she said the company needs to check with their chicken supplier to ensure all protocols for food quality and safety are being followed, and to investigate thoroughly what could have happened, and if there’s still a risk of other pieces of this material showing up.
“Obviously I’m disgusted with finding this in the food and with it being stuck in my gums,” Greeley Elens said. “But what if it happened to a young child? Imagine it going down in their esophagus and stomach. Something serious could happen.
“I was thinking it was something they would want to be made aware of right away. I want to know what they are going to do about it.”