Elizabeth Doney Havre Daily News email@example.com
Jack Hines, 66, has resided in Havre since 1970. He was customed to eating potato chips every evening for a late night snack. That is until last Tuesday, when, in his normal routine, he said he reached for a handful of chips while watching television. As he put the handful to his mouth horror struck him there was a dead mouse in his handful of Lays K.C. Masterpiece barbeque potato chips. “I got him up to my lips and I felt that fur,” Hines said and he retold the story of almost biting into a mouse he believes was fried right alongside the chips at the Frito-Lay processing plant in Utah. Hines said as the chips were one of two bags that he purchased the week of July 4th. One bag traveled to a family barbeque, the other stayed on the shelf until last week when he opened it for a snack. Hines said he had been snacking on the bag of chips for a few nights before finding the small, crispy mouse. It startled the widower so much, he said, that he involentarily tossed the mouse over his head and it went through an open window behind him. Hines said he called the manager at Gary & Leo’s IGA the next morning, after he had some time to get over his queasiness. IGA’s manager Tracy Job advised him to call the Frito-Lay company, so he did three times. “I figured I should do something about it,” Hines said. “The spokesperson from Frito-Lay wanted to know how I could prove it. He said they wouldn’t be able to tell anything until they retrieved the mouse. They thought I was doing it just for the money, but that ain’t the reason I done it. It was because I know how kids and everyone likes eating chips and if it was a younger child, they probably would have ate it and got sick or something.” When asked if there was any other way the mouse could have ended up in the bag, he said, “I don’t know how. Like I said, the bag was sealed when I opened it and I would have noticed if there were holes in the bag. I didn’t smell nothing funny about them.” Frito-Lay told Hines on Wednesday that a representative would come to his house Sunday and pick up the mouse for “processing.” That was before Hines notified the Hill County Health Department on Friday of the incident and a community health official beat the chip company to the "evidence." The mouse and potato chip bag were collected Friday afternoon by the Hill County sanitarian Clay Vincent. Vincent said he was going to forward the contents of the chip bag to the state's Department of Health and Human Services, which he said will work state-to-State to see that the proper protocol is followed in determining whether the mouse was, in fact, inside the barbeque potato chip bag before Hines opened it. Frito-Lay sent the representative to Hine’s home with the first name Delores, who refused to disclose her last name to the Havre Daily, during the Sunday afternoon visit. “Have you got the product?” Delores asked Hines immediately upon entering his home. “Nope. Health board’s got it,” Hines said. When the Havre Daily asked if she had questions for Hines, Delores said, “I’m not from the company and I can’t divulge information.” At which time she left the home, and Hines continued his own investigation n searching his on-line banking to verify the date of purchase for the Lays K. C. Masterpiece barbeque chips that turned up the mouse. Another mouse incident similar to this case occurred on March 19 at Lewis-Palmer Middle School in Monument, Colo. That mouse was not fried and Frito-Lay led the investigation. In the Colorado case, Frito- Lay’s pathologist determined that mouse chewed it’s way into the bag after it left the store shelves, according to an Associate Press article published in March 2007. "We take all reports like this very seriously," Jared Dougherty, Frito-Lays spokesperson, said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. "We are working with the consumer. The gentleman did not want to release what he called his evidence until (Sunday) July 22 and that is when we will be picking up the product. We will review the product to see exactly what happened. In most cases like this, there is a rational explanation. In the majority of cases, it happens after the product leaves our control. " "It looks like an unsubstainted claim," Dougherty said. "We do have the manufacturing code. He told us that he purchased this product on July 2. He contacted us on July 18. There was a significant amount of time from when he purchased the product and the time he contacted us. We can't guarentee the integrity of the product after the consumer purchases it." When asked about the similar claim in Colorado, Dougherty said, "I think it is imperative to point out the fact that the other incident happened after it left our control. That mouse chewed it's way into the bag after it was sold." "What's concerning to me with this incident is the unsubstianted claim here," Doughterty said. "This gentleman has already requested monetary compensation from us. It makes us very sceptical." The Hill County health official said their actions of collecting the evidence were standard practice. "Anytime that you get food that might be found with something that is in there that should not be, the county collects that," Clay Vincent, Hill County sanitarian said. "What I will do is fill out a form that has as much information about the incident as possible where the product was made, the lot number, so on and so forth. After the form is completed I will then ship it (the product, mouse and form) to the state health department." From there the health department will deal with the company to try to figure out how this particular object got into the bag. "Our concern is to have a safe food source," Vincent said. "It doesn't matter if it's a mouse or a nail, a nut or bolt. We want to determine the origin of where it came from and make sure that problem is taken care of." "All we are doing is basically going backwards and trying to see how the thing got in there," Vincent said. "The states will make sure that inspections are done in the manufactoring plants and figure out how it (the mouse) got in the bag. It may have chewed it's way into the bag, it may have been on the conveyer belt or it may have happened some other way. We don't know, but that's where you start the whole investigation." Vincent will ship the bag and mouse to the state health department today and said it might take them a little while before they get to it as they are dealing with other states and factories. "It may take a week or two, " Vincent said. Hines said he believes the mouse was fried along with the chips. "There were no holes in the bag. All you have to do is look at it and you can tell, " he said Friday afternoon. "It ain't got no eyeballs or nothing on it it looks like it was deep fried." The Hill County Health Department and Frito-Lay company said they would issue statements as more information in the investigation is revealed. "We are working with the health department and we are still waiting to do our own analysis of the product," Doughterty said.