Elizabeth Doney Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Frito-Lay Company's stand is that the mouse found in one of their potato chip bags in July entered the bag after it left their possession and was not fried, a spokeswoman for the company said Monday. The finding is similar to a mouse discovered in Monument, Colo., in March where an independent veterinary pathologist hired by Frito-Lay discovered a chew hole, determining the mouse had been dead before the student found it after it left the factory. Local Havre resident Jack Hines, 66, found a mouse that he said he believed was "all cooked up, just like a chip" in his Lays K. C. Masterpiece barbecue chips on July 17. Hines said he immediately reported the finding to IGA, and the next morning reported it to Frito-Lay. Frito-Lay talked to Hines on Tuesday, relaying their findings to him. "They called me up and said some pathologist said it didn't go through the cooker. I think it did it had to. To me, it looks like it was cooked, I don't care what their pathologist said." Hines said. "I told the Frito-Lay lady that from the third (July 3 - the day he purchased the bag) to the fifth (July 5 - the day he opened the bag) how could that mouse deteriorate that fast? They don't want their reputation damaged, but it probably already is. This is pretty much all over the country." Hines maintains the bag was closed with a chip-clip until he discovered the mouse. The mouse was taken from Hine's trailer to the Hill County Health Department. It was then forwarded to the state Department of Health and Human Services Department in Helena. Working with Frito-Lay offi- cials, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Service officials notified the Food and Drug Administration of the complaint before handing the mouse and leftover chips to the independent veterinary pathologist that Frito-Lay officials said they hired to scientifically determine the origin of the mouse, said Montana health official Howard Reid, involved in the compliant. "We retained the product here," said Reid who works for the Montana DPHHS office in Helena. "Frito-Lay indicated an interest in having the product analyzed at a independent laboratory upon which they would share the results with us. We were agreeable to that." If the company hadn't requested the product and mouse, DPHHS would have most likely used the Montana State Univerisity laboratory to investigate the mouse, Reid said. The company also dispatched a person to Helena from the Frito- Lay plant in Utah that manufactured the product, who looked at the sample that was submitted, took photos and left the product with state health officials on July 25. The following day, the thirdparty firm Retail Quality Assurance took possession of the product sample and shipped it to their lab for analysis, Reid said. The independent board-certi- fied veterinary pathologist works for the Retail Quality Assurance, a company that specializes in manufactoring complaint investigations. RQA was contacted for comment on their findings and stated that they could not disclose information about their findings except what they issued through their client, Frito-Lay. "Once they (Montana health officials) confirmed they had a mouse, they were willing to then turn over the product and the mouse to us," Frito-Lay spokeswoman Aurora Gonzales said. "And we said we would have it tested by an independent veterinary pathologist, which we would share the results with them and which we did." Frito-Lay reviewed their safety logs and looked at the quality systems in place to see if that revealed anything, Gonzales said. "In general terms, consumer complaints that involve a open container, we will not accept the product," Reid said. "That's not a blanket statement it depends on what's going on with the particular compaint. In this particular case, an open container with a rodent in it is not too unusual. Rodents can get into open containers." Hines' claim against the Frito-Lay company appears to be isolated, according to the Food and Drug Administration Pacific Complaints Region coordinator who was notified of the incident through Reid, Reid said. The Pacific regional complaints coordinator, Camille Bennet Hoffman, in Tacoma, Wash., was not available for comment at the time of publication. "It was a consumer complaint and forwarded to appropriate channels," Reid said. "Had the product been manufactured in Montana, we would have taken more steps to work more directly with the manufactor, like direct inspections, contacts, etc., but since it wasn't located in Montana, we didn't take those steps." Gonzales said "When Frito-Lay gets a caller complaining about their products, the complaints have explanations it just takes some time generally to find them out." "The two significant findings were that there was no evidence that the mouse expired due to frying and that in fact, the pathologist found biological evidence, rat droppings, which clearly suggests that the mouse was alive in the bag at some point of time," Gonzales said. "Given that the bag was open for two weeks that's certainly ample opportunity for the mouse to enter. So based on those, we are confident that the mouse entered the bag after it left our possession. "Our first priority is making high-quality safe snacks for people to enjoy so of course when we get questions regarding quality or safety, we take these very seriously," Gonzales said. "This is an example of what could have happened. You have an open bag and of course it's upsetting, but you give an opportunity for something like a mouse to enter. "We have worked diligently to understand this specific situation and feel confident that this is something that didn't happen on our end," Gonzales said. "Having not seeing the mouse, I can only defer to an expert. I do know that the mouse was badly decomposed. Frankly, (the independent veterinary pathologist's) conclusion was that it wasn't fried. In and of itself, you might question that, but clearly there was evidence of that if there were droppings in the bags." The report said there was one fecal pellet found in the bag. "This is absolutely one of those surprises unfortunately (open products) does give access to this kind of rodent. I am sure that Mr. Hines, I'm sure, was quite suprised," Gonzales said. "But that's why it's important to understand what might have happened. Looking to the expert is key. He's a leading expert and that's why we tapped him."