The operator of the McDonald's in Simpsonville, S.C., where the spitting… (Associated Press / Ted S.…)
Yuck. A McDonald's worker in South Carolina has been arrested after surveillance video allegedly caught him spitting into cups of iced tea that had been returned by the customers because they weren't sweet enough.
Meanwhile, the operator of the Simpsonville, S.C., fast-food franchise where the incident reportedly took place is asking the public to withhold judgment about his restaurant.
“Nothing is more important to me than the safety and well-being of my customers," the franchise operator, John Kennedy, said in a statement released to The Times. "I want to assure my customers that my restaurant has the most stringent food safety and quality standards and I caution anyone from reaching a conclusion without the facts. As this is a pending police matter, it would be inappropriate to discuss further and, as such, any additional questions can be directed to the police department."
A spokeswoman for the Greenville County Sheriff's Office told Fox Carolina TV that authorities are investigating whether the incident was isolated, but that they don't believe it's an ongoing problem.
The story has been pinging around the Internet on Thursday because, well, it's among a consumer's worst nightmares, said Chris Morran, deputy editor of Consumerist.com, the consumer news and advocacy blog operated by Consumer Reports.
"It icks people out because there's nothing you can do," he said of public interest in the case. "This sort of reminds us that we walk into these restaurants at their mercy."
Morran told The Times that the spitting, if true, was a "classic" move by a ticked-off employee. He added, though, that usually it's the employees who are being abused in the restaurant world, not the customers. "Most people who work in the fast-food industry are nice, well-meaning and hard-working people -- which is remarkable considering how badly they are treated by customers at times, and by management."
Here's how the alleged McDonald'sspitting incident went down, according to media reports from Fox and the Associated Press:
Over the weekend, a mother and daughter picked up iced teas on a visit to the drive-through at the McDonald'son Main Street. But the drinks weren't sweet enough, so they returned them, according to Fox. The new drinks still weren't sweet enough, so the pair decided they'd just add sugar at home. When they took the lids off to add sugar, they said, they found floating clumps of phlegm.
That's when they called the law. They also took pictures of the yuck-covered drinks and turned them over to law enforcement.
Authorities arrested Marvin Washington Jr., 19, on Wednesday after finding surveillance video that shows him leaning down over the cups. He faces a charge of malicious tampering with food.
A representative for the National Restaurant Assn. echoed the franchisee operator in a statement released to The Times, stressing that such food tampering would be "very much outside the norm."
The statement added: "The restaurant industry is committed to excellence in food safety practices, and consumers should absolutely feel safe when enjoying a restaurant meal. As an industry that serves more than 130 million meals each day, food safety is a number-one priority for restaurants and nothing is more important than the health and safety of our guests."