Mickey D's Facing Yet, Another Lawsuit

John A. Quayle blueoval at SGI.NET
Wed Apr 16 01:38:52 MDT 2003

Razor Blade in Fast Food

LOS ANGELES -- An Alta Loma woman who claims her 13-year-old son was
pricked by a razor blade in his McDonald's french fries said Monday she
plans to sue the fast-food giant and to get it to fund a watchdog group.

         Christina Harper said she used to take her son Daniel to a
McDonald's in Rancho Cucamonga "all the time," and didn't have any problems
until Feb. 21, when they stopped for lunch and the teenager reached into
his fries and felt a "prick."

         Harper said her son wasn't hurt, but when she looked in the box
she saw the blade that "looked like it had been in the fryer for awhile. It
had salt on it. "Ultimately, it was not a 'happy meal,'" Harper said. "What
if a parent isn't paying attention, (goes through the drive-thru) and hands
the food back to a child with a razor in it?" said the homemaker, who lives
around the corner from the restaurant. "It's just appalling to me that
McDonald's is trying to brush it under the carpet," Harper said.

         Her attorney, Robert M. Ball of Beverly Hills, said the
corporate-owned store -- which differs from a franchisee in that orders
come "directly from the top" of McDonald's Corp. -- was "arrogant" in its
response. "They said it was none of their business," said Ball, adding that
the Harpers called Rancho Cucamonga police, but they "offered little help,"
and McDonald's employees refused to cooperate with cops.

         Ball said Harper heard McDonald's workers "whispering" that it
wasn't the first time a blade had been found in food there. Ball said
McDonald's corporate team tried to "conceal facts" of the incident and
refused to acknowledge previous incidents involving "unidentified objects"
in food.

         But a McDonald's official said police investigated the situation
and found no evidence of wrongdoing. "Nothing is more important to us than
the safe operation of our restaurants, especially the safety of our
customers," said Jeff Schwartz, general manager of the Oakbrook, Ill.-based
chain's Southern California region. "We believe any allegations regarding
threats to the integrity of our products are totally frivolous, baseless
and false upon our own investigation. This unfortunate, isolated incident
occurred inadvertently during routine maintenance of the equipment,"
Schwartz stated, noting that Ball was given the same information.
"Fortunately, no one was injured. We have taken corrective action to make
sure nothing like this happens again."

         But Ball said McDonald's lacks the proper "security measures."

         "The Harpers believe that type of menace is out there," he said.
"We want to bring some accountability, because fast food is a way of
American life," he said. "McDonald's is the world's largest food-delivery
service and susceptible to tampering."

         Ball, who said a suit would likely be filed later this week, said
in addition to unspecified monetary damages for emotional distress, his
clients want McDonald's to fund a group -- that Harper might lead -- to
gather information on incidents like this. "What better way to protect
people than to spearhead an organization to make sure this doesn't happen
again?" Ball said. It is McDonald's obligation to ensure that (it) would
protect (its) food. It's amazing McDonald's doesn't have something in place
to protect its customers."

         Harper said her husband Ken -- a "self-employed" real estate
broker -- and her son haven't been back to McDonald's since finding the
blade, and that they are "suspicious" of any fast-food restaurant. Finding
"a bug is one thing, but a razor blade?" she said.

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