No matter how bad the food or service is, I usually don’t complain at restaurants because I don’t want the servers or chefs to tamper with anything I’m going to eat. I’ve heard too many bad real-life stories from friends and acquaintances—the brother and sister who told me they served shit-laced cookies to other kids in grade school; the waitress girlfriend who told me she’d purposely drop food on the floor before serving it to annoying customers; the jail guard who’d spit in inmates’ drinks; and the hookah-bar server who said she’d stick the mouthpiece up her ass before smilingly serving the hookah to irksome customers. Even the Reverend Jesse Jackson admits to spitting in white customers’ food back when he worked as a hotel waiter.
There are plenty of urban legends about food tampering, particularly involving poisoned Halloween candy, although there are documented cases of psychopaths putting pins and needles in it. But the following cases are not urban legends; they are all verified.
Despite the title here, none of this is to imply that the following foods and drinks are more susceptible to tampering than any other kinds. The mind-blowing number of cases I uncovered during my research could have been categorized differently—say, according to the type of contaminant (poison, bodily fluids, sharp objects) or the type of victims (cops, criminals, ex-boyfriends, babies, total strangers), but I decided to go with the type of food and beverage instead.
If there’s anything to be learned from this, it’s the importance of being VERY NICE to your food server while they still have a chance to get their mitts on anything you’re going to put in your mouth. And if you have the cash, maybe consider buying a farm instead of shopping at the supermarket.
1. Apple Sauce
In 2007, a 12-year-old boy in Virginia was arrested on charges of placing a straight pin in school-cafeteria applesauce. It was one of a string of food-tampering incidents at his school, including pins found in yogurt and cranberry sauce and a paper clip in a chicken nugget.
2. Baby Food
It takes a special kind of demented brain to mess with baby food. In England in the late 1980s, there was a wave of incidents wherein “Razor blades, pins, caustic soda, and slivers of glass” were placed in baby-food jars. The epidemic was related in part to a $1.7-million extortion scheme with Heinz products wherein a “consumer terrorist” threatened to continue contaminating the baby-food supply until he was paid off. The terrorist turned out to be a Scotland Yard detective. Other documented incidents of baby-food tampering include “a black liquid that smelled like ammonia” in Florida and crushed aspirin in California.
3. Bologna Sandwiches
In 2009, an Ohio jail deputy named Joseph Cantwell asked an inmate to place their penis on a bologna sandwich, snapped a photo of it, and then had the sandwich served to another inmate. After the inmate finished eating the sandwich, Cantwell then showed him the photo of the other inmate’s shlong resting atop it. Cantwell dismissed the event as a “prank” but pleaded guilty to health-code violations and was given a 90-day suspended sentence. The inmate who’d eaten the penis-tainted sandwich claims he lost over 20 pounds during his last six weeks in jail because he was afraid to eat.
Earlier this year, two separate butter packages were found to contain razor blades at a New Jersey grocery store.
In 2006, a Dallas man was “accused of sprinkling his own dried feces on a grocery store’s baked goods.” In 2011, three teenage girls in Pennsylvania pleaded guilty to “icing” a birthday cake with feces before serving it to another female classmate.
Besides the aforementioned pins and needles in Halloween candy, there was a huge extortion case in Japan during the 1980s where a perpetrator who called himself “The Monster With 21 Faces” allegedly laced a confectioner manufacturer’s candy with cyanide.
Late last year, an Illinois woman—reputedly upset that her boyfriend broke up with her—placed rat poison in his coffee can. She pleaded guilty to a felony charge that could have netted her seven years in prison; instead, she spent a few days in jail and received two years of probation along with a mandatory psychiatric evaluation.
An Indian grocer in New Delhi was found guilty and sentenced to a year in jail for an incident in 2000 wherein he was selling dal that had been poisoned with mentanil yellow, which has been proved to cause brain damage.
9. Girl Scout Cookies
In 1984, a wave of tampering incidents involving pins and other objects placed in Girl Scout cookie boxes occurred in at least seven states.
A 68-year-old North Carolina janitor was videotaped in late 2008 masturbating and then “touching various items…including gum” on a female coworker’s desk. “You really don’t know why you do things like that in your life,” said the perpetrator, George Harold Jones. “I’m truly sorry.”
11. Iced Tea
In 2012, 19-year-old Marvin D. Washington, Jr. was arrested for hocking huge gobs of phlegm into the iced tea that was then served to a woman and her daughter at a South Carolina McDonald’s.
There are an array of documented cases involving meat-tampering. They include sewing needles in Nebraska and Canada, painkillers and LSD in Florida, oven cleaner in New York, bleach in Maryland, pesticides in Michigan, a syringe in Washington, and a broken saw blade in Texas. It would appear that chicken and fish are the wiser protein choices.
Four dutch children in 1978 were hospitalized after eating mercury-tainted oranges that were allegedly injected by Arab militants into Israeli-grown fruit.
In what became a YouTube sensation, a Domino’s Pizza worker in North Carolina was filmed by a female accomplice doing things such as sticking shredded mozzarella up his nose, spitting on sandwiches, and rubbing a sponge on his naked ass before using it to clean dishes. Since it was never proved that the food was served, he only received two years of probation for the felony charge.
An infamous Oregon religious cult known as the Rajneeshees poisoned 751 residents of a small town by contaminating ten local salad bars with salmonella. The attack was allegedly conducted to wipe out any local voters who might have opposed cult members in a local election. It is reportedly the largest bioterrorist attack in American history.
In 2005, a Colorado police officer ordered food at a Taco Bell, which he delivered to his wife and two-year-old son. After drinking some of the soda, his wife found “a large, green slimy thing” in it, which turned out to be phlegm purposely spit into the drink by a 19-year-old worker with bronchitis. In March of this year, a 15-year-old Florida student was arrested and charged with squirting hand sanitizer into his teacher’s Diet Coke.
A New Jersey man died in 1986 after eating some Lipton’s Cup-a-Soup that had been dosed with “massive amounts of cyanide.”
A New Mexico grocery-story worker pleaded guilty in 2011 for “handing a female customer a yogurt sample with a spoon that contained some of his semen.” The woman reportedly tasted something wrong with the “yogurt” and spat it out immediately. The man was sentenced to two years in prison.