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WILLITS, Calif. -- Hold the pickles. The onions. And the razor blade.
A Burger King customer bit into a cheeseburger that she ordered and discovered a razor blade nestled between the cheese and the burger. That was 10 days ago in Willits, Calif., a tiny town in Northern California's Mendocino County.
After police investigated, they discovered that the incident wasn't the result of some dastardly deed, but of a questionable internal policy by the local Burger King franchisee, which permitted loose razor blades used for cleaning to be kept in the food preparation area.
Word may have been initially slow to get out -- but it's now going viral, and Burger King finds itself in a public relations mess.
The good news: The woman who bit on the burger on June 2, Yolanda Orozco, a local resident, is OK. "Somebody is very careless at Burger King," she told local TV station KXTV. "I was in shock."
The bad news: Burger King still has some serious explaining to do.
"Food safety is a top priority for Burger King restaurant globally," says spokesman Miguel Piedra., in a statement. "Burger King Corp's strict food handling procedures clearly outline that razor blades are not permitted in or near food preparation areas at any time."
In a phone interview, however, Piedra, said it was a franchisee -- not a company-owned or company-operated store. "It was an isolated incident," he said. "We're making sure that there are no razor blades in that restaurant moving forward."
But that's not enough, say two experts -- a crisis management consultant and a restaurant industry consultant.
"It's terrible," says Linda Lipsky, the restaurant consultant. "It calls into question the type of training that goes into the franchisor training programs," she says.
Small, sharp implements such as razor blades should never be out on the floor under any circumstances, she says. Consumers certainly shouldn't have to put their burgers through metal detectors to make sure that they're safe to eat, she says.
Perhaps, Burger King needs to supply new, safe and standardized cleaning instruments to all Burger King restaurants that have the Burger King logo on them, she suggests.
Burger King should act immediately to "clean up its act," says Larry L. Smith, a senior consultant at the Institute for Crisis Management. What's more, in a world of social media, it needs to learn to respond more quickly.
Smith says that he used to urge clients to respond within six hours of an incident. A few years ago, he changed that to one hour.
"I now advise them to respond within five to 10 minutes of something going public."
For it's part, Piedra says, "Burger King takes this situation seriously and is working with the franchisee to reinforce our food preparation procedures and retrain staff."
Even then, says Lipsky, that might not be enough.
"What if the woman had died?" Lipsky poses. "You shouldn't have to die when you want to eat a burger."
Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY
Gannett / USA Today