Sewing needle found in lettuce in Toronto

A two−inch sewing needle was found pierced into the spine of lettuce in a Toronto grocery store, specifically Andy Boy Romaine lettuce hearts.

The Toronto Police Service advises the public to use caution and check any pre−packaged lettuce for foreign objects.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 416−808−4100, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416−222−TIPS (8477), online at , text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637), or Leave A Tip on Facebook.

Food tampering closes Ontario grocery store

A grocery store in Listowel, Ontario (that’s in Canada) suddenly closed Thursday after needles were found in fruit and meat.

The contaminated food was found Thursday afternoon at the Food Basics store on Wallace Avenue North in Listowel. The store was closed as a safety precaution on one of the busiest grocery days of the year, the day before Easter Weekend.

Police are urging area residents to inspect food carefully when handling it and before eating it.

The Perth County OPP (that’s the Ontario Provincial Police, not the dudes with horses) criminal investigations unit is looking into the incident and is working with store management and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

It was the Methomy in the salsa: Kansas couple charged in mass poisonings

A couple who were upset at the owner of a Mexican restaurant were charged today with deliberately sickening dozens of patrons by spiking the salsa with an insecticide.

The Capital-Journal of Topeka (Kansas) reports today that Arnoldo Bazan, 30, and his wife  Yini De La Torre, 19, both of Shawnee (Kansas) and both in clear violation of the half-your-age-plus-7-rule for relationships, have been charged with mixing Methomyl into salsa served to patrons at Mi Ranchito restaurant in Lenexa (Kansas),.

That’s good for one count of conspiring to recklessly endanger other people by conspiring to tamper with a consumer product and two counts of tampering with a consumer product.

U.S. Attorney Lanny Welch explained Thursday that Bazan was employed at a Mi Ranchito restaurant in Olathe until June 27. De La Torre was employed at the Mi Ranchito in Lenexa until Aug. 30.

The indictment alleges Bazan perceived the owner of Mi Ranchito restaurants was responsible for Bazan losing his job and his vehicle. Bazan and De La Torre devised a plan to use a Methomyl-based pesticide to poison patrons of the restaurant in hopes the owner of Mi Ranchito would be blamed and suffer financial harm.

In July, Bazan followed the owner of the Mi Ranchito restaurant, Welch said. An anonymous notice was sent to the Mi Ranchito Web site threatening harm if Bazan’s vehicle wasn’t returned. On Aug. 10, De La Torre is accused of placing Methomyl into the salsa at the Mi Ranchito restaurant in Lenexa. On Aug. 11, 12 patrons immediately suffered nausea, abdominal cramps, weakness, sweating and discomfort.

On Aug. 28, Arnoldo Bazan sent word to the owner of Mi Ranchito by way of another person that "the worst" was yet to come, Welch said. On Aug. 30, De La Torre again placed Methomyl into salsa at the Mi Ranchito restaurant in Lenexa. On that day, 36 patrons immediately suffered nausea, abdominal cramps, weakness, sweating and chest discomfort.

On Sept. 8, Bazan reportedly told De La Torre not to speak with law enforcement investigators or she would suffer physical harm.

Welch said the following agencies took part in the investigation: the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigation, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division, the Lenexa Police Department, the Johnson County District Attorney’s Office, the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and the Johnson County Health Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Rask is prosecuting.

Sewing needles in Maple Leaf meats

In what appears to be an isolated incident, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Loblaw Companies Limited are warning the public after 50 mm sewing needles were found in certain luncheon meat kits and wieners at the No Frills Store located on Silvercreek Parkway in Guelph, Ontario. That’s in Canada.

Hosers surface in Wisconsin: woman accused of placing dead rat in food

On March 22, 2005, Anna Ayala claimed she found a finger in a bowl of Wendy’s chili in San Jose. The finger became the talk of the Internet and late-night talk shows, and spawned numerous bizarre tips and theories about the source of the finger. Wendy’s lost millions in reduced sales.

The finger belonged to an associate of Ayala’s ex-husband and both are now doing time.

Less noticed was that at least 20 copycat claims surfaced since Anna’s tale, bringing back memories of hosers Bob and Doug MacKenzie of Second City fame explaining how to get a free case of beer by claiming to find a dead mouse in a beer bottle.

This is not funny to the food companies who have, and succeed, in providing safe, affordable food but have to further protect themselves against bogus claims.

Debbie R. Miller, 41, of Appleton, Wis. was charged Monday with one felony count of extortion after she was accused of planting a dead lab rat in restaurant food and demanding $500,000 to keep quiet.

Miller claimed to find the rat in her lunch April 17 as she ate at the upscale Seasons Restaurant in Grand Chute, according to the criminal complaint.

She threatened to alert the media unless the owners paid her $500,000, the complaint said.

The owners turned the rat over to their insurance company. Investigators there determined the rodent was a white laboratory rat, the complaint said.

Tests also suggested the rodent had been cooked in a microwave, but the restaurant doesn’t use microwaves in cooking.

Even Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector could have figured that one out.

Beer tampering mystery solved; Bob and Doug fingered

If Canadian cattle or chickens or pigs get sick, the public is told all about it. If Canadian people get sick, not so much.

Like the salmonella in fruit salad outbreak from summer 2006, in which 41 culture-confirmed Salmonella serotype Oranienburg infections were diagnosed in persons in 10 northeastern U.S. states and one Canadian province. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports in a summary report today that the culprit was likely cantaloupe, served in fruit salad in health care facilities.

As Ben Chapman and I have written (left, not exactly as shown) it’s not the first time Canadians have been told about food safety problems in Canada by U.S. authorities. But you know all those folks at Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada and that Canadian Food Inspection Agency are very important and busy people.

But there are a couple of areas where Canadians shine.

Hundreds can be sickened by food in Canada — like the 650 sickened in southern Ontario in fall 2005 by Salmonella in fresh sprouts — and no one will get sued. Sicken a Canadian’s pet, like with the melamine-contaminated pet food earlier this year, and Canadians are first in the lawsuit line.

But Canada’s real strength is beer.

Canadian Press reports today that Labatt breweries has solved the mystery of how some tainted bottles of Stella Artois were served to customers in Toronto and Kamloops, B.C.

Labatt corporate affairs vice president Neil Sweeney says the company created several displays for the beer and one of its suppliers filled the display bottles with concentrated alcohol.

Sweeney says, after speaking with thousands of bar owners across the country, Labatt discovered that some of the displays had been dismantled and the bottles placed behind the bars and eventually served to customers.

Labatt and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency warned consumers in July about cases of suspected tampering after ethanol was found in bottles of Stella Artois beer.

Several people drank some of the ethanol, although no one became ill.

Sweeney says settlements have been negotiated with some of the customers but he is not revealing how much compensation has been paid.

Oh, and at the wine and cheese festival at Disney in Orlando on the weekend, Amy and I went to the Canadian booth, where they were serving Labatt’s Blue.

I said to the Canadian behind the tap, "Blue is the best we can do?"

He directed me to another stand that at least had Moosehead.

Can I have some electric kool-aid with that?

Dominick A. Rao, a janitor with the Fair Lawn, New Jersey, school district since 2000, is alleging in a lawsuit that his co-workers laced his pizza with the hallucinogen LSD in an attempt to poison him at an office party in 2005.

His attorney, Richard Mazawey, was quoted as telling The Record of Bergen County for Monday editions that,

"He said he felt like his body and system were melting from the inside out, like he was living in a kaleidoscope."