The Human Finger That Ended up In the Chili at WendysTruth! But it was a Scam!

Summary of eRumor:

A forwarded email alleged to include an Associated Press story of a women who bit into what turned out to be a human finger at a Wendy’s fast food restaurant in San Jose, California.  

The Truth:

This was quite a saga and in the end turned out to be a scam.
On March 22, 2005, Anna Ayala said she was eating chili at a Wendy’s restaurant in San Jose when she realized something strange was in her mouth.
It turned out to be a human fingertip.
Wendy’s conducted an investigation as did health authorities and could not find any evidence that the finger had originated from anywhere within Wendy’s.
Wendy’s then hired a private investigator and offered a $100,000 reward to find the owner of the finger tip.
According to a 4/16/05 article in the Seattle Times, Ayala hired a lawyer to sue Wendy’s but there were reports that she has a history of filing false claims against corporations and she dropped the lawsuit.
On April 22, 2005, police in Las Vegas took Anna Ayala into custody and made charges against her in connection with the finger in the chili.
Ayala protested her innocence but the mystery remained as to where the finger came from.
Then on 5/13/05 San Jose police announced that the finger was that of an acquaintance of Ayala’s husband and had been lost in an industrial accident in December, 2004.
Then in September, 2005 both Ayala and her husband, Jaime Placencia, pleaded guilty to conspiring to file a false claim and attempted grand theft.
Wendy’s says it has lost $2.5 million in sales and dozens of employees lost their jobs because of the hoax.

Last updated 9/10/05

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

Woman Eating Chili Bites Into Human Finger

SAN JOSE, Calif. Mar 23, 2005 – A woman’s meal at a Wendy’s restaurant brought a whole new meaning to the term “finger food.” The woman bit into a portion of a human finger while eating a bowl of chili Tuesday night at the San Jose restaurant, Santa Clara County health officials said Wednesday.

The woman, who asked officials not to identify her, immediately spit out the finger and warned other diners to stop eating, witnesses said.

“Initially she did put this object in her mouth and did bite down on it and wasn’t sure exactly what it was,” Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Martin Fenstersheib said at a news conference. “She’s doing OK. Initially she was a bit grossed out it was described to me, and vomited a number of times.”

Fenstersheib said the finger had been cooked at a high enough temperature to kill any viruses.

Officials said the fingertip was approximately 1 3-8-inches long and a half-inch piece of fingernail was also found. They believe it belongs to a woman because of the long, manicured nail.

Health investigators seized all of the ingredients at the restaurant and are tracing them back to their manufacturer. They believe the finger got into the chili at an earlier stage.

“We have no evidence of any accident within the employees at the facility itself,” said Ben Gale of the Santa Clara County Health Department. “We asked everybody to show us they have 10 fingers and everything is OK there.”

The restaurant has had only one minor health violation stemming from a leaky vent, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Food safety is of utmost importance to us,” Wendy’s spokesman Joe Desmond said in a statement. “We are cooperating fully with the local police and health departments with their investigation. It’s important not to jump to conclusions. Here at Wendy’s we plan to do right by our customers.”

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.