LINCOLN CITY, Ore. – People who got spinach on their sandwich or salad at a Subway restaurant in Lincoln City earlier this month may have unknowingly eaten food tainted by a dead rodent.
But the state health department said it didn't put anyone in danger of getting sick.
"They [health inspectors] consulted with physicians and we followed their advice that, although it is not very appetizing, the risk of someone becoming sick due to eating lettuce with those particular circumstances were very low," explained Cheryl Connell, Dir. Of Lincoln County Health and Human Services.
The dead rodent ended up in customer Jay Armstead's lunch. But he said thankfully, it got noticed before he was served his sandwich or took a bite out of it.
"It was unfortunate I was the lucky recipient," Armstead told KGW. "It was wet and dead. His tail was curled up and you could see his two front teeth."
Matt Jones saw the dead animal in his friend Jay's sandwich and snapped the photo that has now gone viral across the country.
"It's the funniest thing I've ever seen, but it's also the most disgusting thing I've ever seen," Jones said, recalling his initial reaction. "I laughed because I was like, there is no way this just happened."
The incident happened on Tuesday, October 6, just before 2 p.m., in the Subway located at 4648 US Highway 101 in Lincoln City.
Jones said the employee made his teriyaki chicken sandwich (complete with a splash of spinach) and then started working on his friend Jay's Italian sub.
Apparently Jay wanted some spinach, too. So the employee scraped the last spoonful out of the bin and plopped it onto the bread.
"I got my drink, turned around and they were in shock like something happened," Jones said. "There was a mouse in there. It was gross."
KGW called Subway franchise headquarters for comment, and they issued this statement:
"As soon as the customer alerted the owner about what happened, they were immediately given a full refund and an investigation was launched. To be cautious, all of the products in the sandwich unit were disposed of and a thorough cleaning took place, in which the Health Department gave the restaurant a clean bill of health. There were no other complaints made."
The county health department was immediately notified and "arrived promptly" to conduct an investigation, Connell said.
The inspector studied the dead rodent, the bin it came from and also searched the entire restaurant for any sign of contamination or droppings.
"The investigation determined that the rodent problem did not come from inside the facility. It was probably in a bag of the bagged spinach product, not from the facility itself," Connell said. "Everything was sanitized and cleaned properly afterwards."
As for Armstead, he has maintained a pretty good attitude about what happened, calling it a "freak accident." Jones returned his sandwich and got a full refund. They also called Subway headquarters to file a complaint.
Jones said they didn't want to sue, just wanted to make sure other customers were properly notified.
"Look at this beast of a mouse in the spinach at Subway today! Good thing we didn't bite into it! AMAZING! WTF!! The manager was in shock!"
"How many sandwiches prior to that were served and eaten from that same tub of spinach?" he questioned. "I told them they should notify anyone who purchased a sandwich with spinach in it that day and they laughed at me, said it would be impossible for them to track everyone down."
Connell explained Tuesday that since the State Public Health Division determined this case was not a public health emergency, there was no need to contact other people who had consumed the spinach. Case closed.
KGW contacted Subway headquarters again on Tuesday, to identify the vendor which supplies the Lincoln City restaurant with bagged spinach. Alison Goldberg, Communication Specialist with Subway Franchise World Headquarters, LLC emailed this response: "We don't share information about our suppliers as this is proprietary."
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