Friday, March 25, 2005

Menu tip: meatpacking is dangerous work

This is the story of a diner in Santa Clara, California, who took a spoonful of chile at a Wendy's restaurant and found she was eating the tip of a human finger. She immediately spit it out, warned the other diners, and threw up. Santa Clara County Health officer Dr. Martin Fenstersheib sought to reassure her:
[Fenstersheib] said the finger had been cooked at a high enough temperature to kill any viruses, including hepatitis or HIV, and it was unlikely that she will suffer any health effects from her experience, aside from psychological trauma.

The finger was described by Santa Clara County Medical Examiner Dr. Joseph P. O'Hara as cooked but not decomposed. The finger was found in two pieces, a one and three-eighths inch long fingertip complete with the skin whorls used in fingerprinting, and a half-inch long piece of fingernail. The joint appeared to have been torn off, possibly by manufacturing machinery, rather than cleanly cut. Because of its slightly longer than average length and neat grooming, it may have belonged to a woman, O'Hara said. (SFGate)
Since all restaurant employees had a complete set of intact digits, the assumption was that the finger tip had entered the food chain during "the manufacturing process." Which is the point of this post.

If you read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle in highschool you have a pretty fair idea of the extremely dangerous workplaces slaughterhouse and meatpacking workers endured a hundred years ago. If you read Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation you also know things have changed little in today's industrial killing machine we call the meatpacking industry. Packing houses are still incredibly dangerous places to work.

And now you also know that somewhere there is a worker in one of these meatpacking houses missing the end of one of her fingers.