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Rush to Judgment

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Now that Wendy’s has been vindicated (or so it would seem) of any fault in the infamous “Finger in the Chile” fiasco, we need to sit back and reflect for a minute. This incident and the media blitz that followed it is a rare opportunity to examine the direct impact of the media on our lives.

Wendy’s estimated that they lost more than one million dollars a day in sales since the incident. Usual Wendy’s eaters found alternate dining accommodations. But why? Because we are irrational, that’s why. If Wendy’s was characterized by serving food with body parts in it, that would be one thing, but if one event can influence 20–50% of us to alter our normal course of daily events, that is a force to be reckoned with. This is not an example of a careful eating decision, it is a situation where information and reporting control us. And now that the whole thing has been revealed as a hoax, we all look pretty silly waiting in the incredibly long lines at McDonald’s.

The story was really too unbelievable to be true. How does someone lose a finger and not know it? How does an entire shift keep a factory accident like that quiet? How does “the finger” make it into someone’s mouth undetected on those tiny plastic spoons they give you to use? Too many unanswered questions, but better safe than a cannibal. Remember the Jack-in-the-Box E.coli scare? I was living in Washington State at the time, and the Jack-in-the-Box’s around Seattle were EMPTY…no one was that brave. No one, that is, except for me and the rest of my lunkhead Navy friends. Money was scarce being an enlisted man in the service and Jack-in-the-Box was cheap. Jack-in-the-Box won back their customers with very low prices and food safety checks, and now it’s all but forgotten. Ditto Tylenol. By instituting some much needed safety measures and tamper-proof seals, the cyanide scare of 1982 is a distant memory.

I’m sure Wendy’s will have to do some sort of damage control—even though they weren’t at fault. The reality of the FDA’s specifications for food purity are shocking, not for what they keep out, but for what they leave in:

It's a fact of life in the food industry. Any substance able to supply sustenance will also carry with it a host of dangers—acquisitive insects, ravenous rodents, as well as inanimate contaminants such as dust, dirt and extraneous fibers. To eliminate these entities would be impossible; hence, it has been the goal of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and countless QA/QC directors, to determine just what levels of extrinsic particles can be considered acceptable, then take steps to ensure these levels are not exceeded.[1]

Fingers, insects and rodents notwithstanding, the food we eat in this country is relatively safe and clean. The most immediate danger in any restaurant environment is the kitchen staff, not the food itself. We need to remember this as food consumers and not be made to fear by the most recent news report. The Bible calls for two or three witnesses to be heard before a judgment is made (Deut. 19:15) and listening to both sides of a dispute (Prov. 18:17). The mass media hold too much power in this country already—don’t give them your mind and fast food too. Show the media that they don’t control you. Go to Wendy’s for lunch, the lines are much shorter, and Dave Thomas was a really nice guy.

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