Ohio salad arrives with piece of a thumb

March 5, 2004 | CANTON, Ohio (AP) -- The severed tip of a restaurant worker's thumb was found in a customer's salad.

Stark County Health Commissioner Bill Franks said an employee at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers in the Canton suburb Jackson Township was chopping lettuce at about 7 p.m. Monday when he cut off a part of his left thumb, including part of the fingernail.

Employees at the restaurant about 70 miles south of Cleveland searched for the tip of his finger, but could not find it. The area was cleaned and sanitized, but the lettuce was placed in the cooler. The lettuce was then used for salads the next day.

"It wound up being served at lunch time Tuesday to a 22-year-old woman,'' Franks said.

She had eaten most of her salad when she put the human tissue in her mouth, Franks said.

She thought it was a piece of gristle, a health department report said. She then alerted a manager.

Red Robin spokesman Dwayne Chambers said that employees, in their haste to get the injured man to a doctor, failed to follow the chain's procedures and throw out all food in the area.

"We clearly had a breakdown,'' he said. ``We are incredibly sorry about what happened.''

Chambers said he spoke with the woman.

"She obviously was pretty upset,'' he said.

The well-being of customers is the Greenwood, Colo. restaurant's top priority, Chambers said.

Franks said the restaurant has been cited for ``serving adulterated food'' and having improper supervision. The restaurant should have reported the incident Monday, he said. Red Robin has been ordered to train the staff on safe food procedures. Both the customer and the employee will be tested for blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. Franks did not identify either person. "We don't think there was a lot of blood that was passed, but we just don't want to take any chances,'' he said. The Red Robin Web site says the chain has 222 restaurants, with 202 in the U.S., 20 in Canada and 17 currently under construction.