Hm, that's a weird tasting piece of chicken.
December 5, 2009 7:56 AM   Subscribe

So I think I ate part of a mouse. What should I do?

We heated up this foil-packet packaged vegetarian dish last night for dinner, and after a couple of bites, I bit into a piece of meat. I thought my wife had just put some extra food in there, so I didn't think much of it. Then, with a few bites to go, I spit out a tiny bone.

At first we thought it was a stem, but after washing it, I'm sure it's a bone. Then we looked through the rest of it, and found a bigger piece of meat, with what seems to be hair on it. There are small bones within.

I've taken pictures, and the "meat" is in my freezer. I'm definitely writing to the company's HQ, but should I be doing more than that?

We're both seriously grossed out, but I'm assuming that the pasteurization for the foil packaging would kill off any harmful germs. But should we take further precaution?
posted by jsmith77 to Food & Drink (37 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'd say no. Humans have been eating meat for a very, very long time, and our bodies are very good at it. Most of that meat hasn't been pasteurized and preserved in foil before reaching out stomachs. Unless you get ill, you're fine, if a little grossed out.
posted by ellF at 8:03 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

People eat mice on purpose--they're not toxic per se, so. The only danger is if the animal wasn't sufficiently cooked by the time you ate it. If you get food poisoning, you'll know it, and there's no way to head it off after the fact.

Sorry that you had such a disgusting experience. Bleagh.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:03 AM on December 5, 2009

never buy that brand again and stop thinking about it......

not that big a deal, just consider it extra protein...
posted by HuronBob at 8:11 AM on December 5, 2009

Anything that would have killed you you'd be feeling by now, so I think you'll be fine.

Get a good lawyer and pics. Please pics. Pretty-please with sugar on top. In fact, forward this AskMe to the company so they understand that, "Yes, Virginia, there's a demand" and that they should just pay you whatever you want to keep them to yourselves.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:14 AM on December 5, 2009

Money talk aside, I think you have an obligation to contact the FDA so that the food manufacturer is, at the very least, thoroughly inspected. The peanut butter scandal earlier this year was quite revealing in that it made clear how little oversight there is over food production in the US- your complaint would at least assure that this place is checked for nasty bugs and potential dangers.
posted by farishta at 8:20 AM on December 5, 2009 [4 favorites]

That is really disgusting. I would love to know what company it was, but understand that the negative publicity is certainly something you can leverage. Would you share it privately? if so...thanks! ::thoroughly grossed out::
posted by keasby at 8:25 AM on December 5, 2009

never buy that brand again and stop thinking about it......
Actually, if you don't mind sharing which brand it was so I never buy that brand again.
And please keep us posted on how this turns out.

Actually,(IANAL) that might not be legally prudent now that I think about it.
posted by The Potate at 8:28 AM on December 5, 2009

Thank you very, very much for not telling me what brand it is. I really, really don't want to know. MeMail The Potate!
posted by amtho at 8:37 AM on December 5, 2009

Yeah, unless you get food poisoning, which is unlikely, you'll be fine. People don't eat mice, not because they're bad for us, but because it usually isn't worth it. Not much meat in there.

I'm not sure I'd get a lawyer here. It's gross, yes, and they shouldn't have allowed this, but unless you get sick the damages are pretty nominal. All you're really entitled to may well be a refund, which probably isn't worth the effort. It doesn't appear from these facts that you have suffered any injury which would entitle you to compensation.

Definitely consider filing a complaint with the FDA, but don't get your hopes up that they'll do anything about it.

IAAL, but IANYL, and probably not licensed in your state.
posted by valkyryn at 8:39 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seen the common level of home photography, one should add that the pictures need to be in focus, bones and all. It adds a lot of weight to one's claims. Borrow a camera that does good macro, experiment with good light, etc.
[Yargh, and I've just posted a new recipe on my blog. I think I'll do some yoga now or something, just to calm down. Seriously, how does one manage to keep it down...]
posted by Namlit at 8:43 AM on December 5, 2009

In the first season of 'Survivor' they had to eat rats. Nobody died. Unfortunately.
posted by spilon at 8:46 AM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Dear lord. Preserve everything. Take pics. Write the company.

Let their response to your complaint dictate your legal action, imo.

And please, please, please MeMail me what brand this was!
posted by kaseijin at 8:49 AM on December 5, 2009

How did you "heat it up?"

If it was more than a minute in the microwave, I doubt there's much to worry about.

Regarding unnecessary panic: I am pretty sure anyone and everyone who eats any kind of packaged or fast food has eaten a mouse, spider and bug part at least once in the last couple of months, including everyone in this thread. (What do you think happens to factory mice, exactly?)

But they're usually quite mooshed up, chopped, cooked and mixed with the expected food by the time we eat them, and we don't even notice. The unusual thing about this one is that it was so recognizable.
posted by rokusan at 8:58 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

You're probably not even going to get sick from this, since the mouse was most likely cooked with everything else in there, and otherwise it sounds like you've pretty much done everything you can so far. Maybe contact the FDA or the USDA, as well.

But yeah, another request to know what company this was, MeMail or otherwise.

like valkyryn, IAAL but IANYL
posted by dilettante at 9:00 AM on December 5, 2009

I really, really need to know what brand this is. Please Memail me! Also? In a vegetarian dish? I'd have lost it big time on them. Seems like you're very calm about this. Congrats for keeping your cool.
posted by cestmoi15 at 9:00 AM on December 5, 2009

I forget what book discusses all of this at length (Fast Food Nation?) but one example per the FDA:

The FDA's action level for peanut butter is 30 or more insect fragments or one or more rodent hairs per 100 grams.

So any less than 30 insect fragments per 100g passes inspection.

Granted, not quite mouse meat, but the idea that our food is 'pure' is illusory.
posted by rokusan at 9:01 AM on December 5, 2009

the idea that our food is 'pure' is illusory

This is equally true for food that comes straight from a farm, as anyone who's lived on a farm knows. If I had a dollar for every dead mouse I've fished out of a milk can...

Still, you should let the manufacturer of your product know and demand a refund, etc. Mouse legs are Not Cool in packaged meals.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:17 AM on December 5, 2009

Disgusting!! I doubt any physical hard will come of it (if that were the case, you'd probably already be experiencing food poisoning symptoms) but if I were you, I'd contact the company and demand a refund and also file a complaint with the FDA/USDA. Personally, I wouldn't consider suing (unless I actually did get sick and had bills to cover), but that's due to my own philosophical opposition to how overly litigious American society has become. But I would tell everyone I knew the name of the company so they could avoid the disgustingness.
posted by emd3737 at 9:32 AM on December 5, 2009

In a vegetarian dish?

Why not? Mice are herbivores, so they eat vegetarian food too :-)

Some of you make it sound like they put this in the food on purpose (hey, cheap protein!), but unless this is produced and packaged by hand by some "artisan mom & pop shop", it's a lot more likely that the mouse snuck into the food container to check things out long before it was filled with anything. Packaging machines checks for foreign matter in the containers in various ways, but the check failed in this case.
posted by effbot at 9:48 AM on December 5, 2009

Good point, Sidhedevil.

I think that we expect too much hyper-science-sanity from packaged food, probably because of the way the grocery store and packaging experience seems so far removed from the plant and animal world.

OP, you're handling it well. Might as well send a complaint and get some free stuff from the manufacturer, but don't think for a moment that only one brand or one product is susceptible here. It could have been anything.
posted by rokusan at 10:04 AM on December 5, 2009

tell the consumerist
posted by anthropomorphic at 10:36 AM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Take a look at The Consumerist's posts tagged "unacceptable food" to see what other people have done about similar problems. Midway down the page there's a story about a British man who got a thousand dollars or so from a bakery who accidentally sold him a rat inside his loaf of bread.
posted by acidic at 10:36 AM on December 5, 2009

Don't tell The Consumerist.

People run to that place for everything, which is really rather frustrating as half the stuff that they DO publish doesn't belong on there, no less most of the crap they don't.

Running to The Consumerist without giving the company an opportunity to answer your claims is asinine. Contact them, contact the USDA if you're so inclined. See what happens. Make your decisions from there. Unless the response is "go play in traffic", this isn't a 'consumer wronged by big bad corporate america', this is a 'icky stuff got in food' thing.

For all we know, the foreign object didn't even originate in that package - Maybe the mouse/whatever got into it during shipping, or at the store, or in your trunk, or in your food storage location of choice.
posted by Rendus at 10:44 AM on December 5, 2009 [4 favorites]

Oh, and don't name and shame the company, unless you feel that they are actually /responsible/ for something getting into their packaging - Say, an assembly line of mouse-inserters and the mouse was stamped "Inspected by QA15" or something.

As some people above mention, food contamination happens. It happens -everywhere-. It's not likely to be the company's fault unless there is true and utter negligence behind the scenes somewhere.
posted by Rendus at 10:46 AM on December 5, 2009

For all we know, the foreign object didn't even originate in that package - Maybe the mouse/whatever got into it during shipping, or at the store, or in your trunk, or in your food storage location of choice.

It was sealed in foil.
posted by delmoi at 11:20 AM on December 5, 2009

Feel free to send it to us, especially if you feel like the company didn't give you a satisfactory response.

Rendus, people usually write to us because they've already tried to contact the company and were brushed off. As for gross stuff in food, as a consumer I'd want to know what company has shoddy processing practices regardless of how good the follow-up customer service is. Having mice getting into the food indicates lax sanitary standards and could be indicative of other problems, like pathogens.
posted by jalexc at 11:27 AM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Another reason to not eat vegetarian food.
posted by Dr. Send at 11:57 AM on December 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

Here are some pics for the curious:

Meat and Bone. The bone is not the same bone you see sticking out of the meat chunk, it's a separate part. To me, it looks like the same thing that another mefite found here. Again, I'm not sure it's a mouse, but I'm guessing by the size and the fur that it's something close to it.

Yes, it was a vegetarian dish. Spinach-based to be exact, which is why couldn't see it when we first heated it up. I'm not a vegetarian, but I am pretty turned off at the smell of meat at the moment, and I'm probably going to need to avoid it for a little while. Also, the food was made in a foreign country, although it's sold under their label, so I'm not sure what kind of regulations apply. I'll let the FDA worry about it.

I'm going to write to the company to let them know, and also ask them to recall the batch. What worries me is that there is no head, so someone else's package may have it... I owe it to that person to tell the FDA. If they don't sound like they're serious about the issue, then I'll have to reconsider making a fuss about it. But yeah, I don't feel it was malicious. Sloppy, definitely.

Luckily for them, I also think America is too litigious. I'll give them a chance to do the right thing. Thanks all for the advice.

BTW, if you think it could be a different animal, I'd be curious to hear your opinion.
posted by jsmith77 at 12:21 PM on December 5, 2009

Hold the company's feet to the fire, of course. Health-wise you're probably going to be fine. You'd be amazed what humans can eat and get away with.

I'd also like to recommend against the "what other animal could it have been?" Line of questions. As a wise hitman once said: "If my answers frighten you, you should cease asking scary questions."
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 12:55 PM on December 5, 2009

It was sealed in foil.

I try to make it a point to not read between the lines when reading Ask MeFi posts. It was sealed in foil. Was the foil inspected for any holes before heating? Before eating? Packaging can be compromised. Depending on the nature of the food product, it may have been sold bulk to a local distributor, who then packaged it. Who knows?

We're dealing with a real situation, but with tiny bits of information, putting it into a near hypothetical. People love to throw blame without enough information, and with rallying cries of "To The Consumerist to fix this amazing wrong of... Shit happening!" being sounded, I want people to take a moment to think about where the actual issue may have occurred. Now that the OP has posted more details, it's a little more clear that the problem was pre-packaging - But we didn't know that then, and even that is reading between the lines a bit.
posted by Rendus at 12:58 PM on December 5, 2009

I am NOT buying the "Hat with Meat". BLEAH!
posted by Drasher at 1:14 PM on December 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh god. I am not going to be taking TinyPic up on their offer to buy that image on a product.
posted by crabintheocean at 3:04 PM on December 5, 2009 [4 favorites]

You'll also want to preserve the container and the foil seal, as well as the cardboard box it came it, for the numbers on them that specify which food plant processed it, which day, which lot, etc. These will be important for the FDA investigation, as well as making you look like the responsible consumer you are, not somebody trying to defraud and blackmail. Keep the evidence in the freezer and don't let anyone take it away from you except the FDA itself. Also, don't except an instant reply from the FDA; the wheels of government sometimes turn pretty slowly.
posted by exphysicist345 at 3:45 PM on December 5, 2009

Oh God. It was palak paneer, wasn't it? I just ate a whole bunch of those foil packets of Indian food. Please MeMail me and tell me it wasn't Trader Joe's.
posted by HotToddy at 4:04 PM on December 5, 2009

Oh vom. Definitely contact the company for starters. My mom found a large beetle in a bottle of Clearly Canadian once and got a very sincere apology letter and a ton of free shit.
posted by naoko at 11:38 PM on December 5, 2009

Please MeMail me and tell me it wasn't Trader Joe's.

Me too. Please. I just ate TJs palak paneer yesterday, and I have been reading this with a gradual sinking feeling.
posted by changeling at 10:42 AM on December 6, 2009

posted by granted at 1:16 PM on December 19, 2009

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