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Search continues for owner of missing digit

A woman bit into a partial finger served in a bowl of chili at a Wendy’s restaurant, leading authorities to a fingerprint database Thursday to determine who lost the digit.
WENDY'S CHILI
This photo, released by the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health in San Jose, Calif., shows a portion of a human finger that a woman says she found while eating a bowl of chili at a Wendy's restaurant.AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A woman bit into a partial finger served in a bowl of chili at a Wendy’s restaurant, leading authorities to a fingerprint database Thursday to determine who lost the digit.

The incident occurred Tuesday night at a San Jose Wendy’s restaurant and left the customer ill and distraught, said Joy Alexiou, a spokeswoman for the Santa Clara County Health Department.

“She was so emotionally upset once she found out what it was,” Alexiou said. “She was vomiting.”

The exterior of a Wendy's restaurant in San Jose, Calif., is shown Thursday, March 24, 2005. A woman bit into a portion of a human finger while eating a bowl of chili at this Wendy's fast food restaurant in San Jose, health officials said. Officials said the fingertip contained part of a manicured nail. The woman, who asked officials not to identify her, immediately spit it out, Santa Clara County Health Officer Martin Fenstersheib said. Wendy's spokesman Joe Desmond said the company was cooperating with the investigation. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)Paul Sakuma / AP

Employees at the Wendy’s store were asked to show investigators their fingers after the Tuesday night incident. All employees’ digits were accounted for, officials said, adding that the well-cooked finger may have come from a food processing plant that supplies the company.

“All of our employees have ten digits,” said Denny Lynch, a spokesman for Wendy’s International Inc., based in Dublin, Ohio. He said there have been no reports to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of injuries at any supplier of chili ingredients to Wendy’s.

“By law, you can’t hide that sort of stuff,” Lynch said. “All of our chili suppliers report no accidents.”

Investigators seized the remaining chili and closed the restaurant for a few hours late Tuesday.

Health officials said the fingertip was approximately 1½ inches long. They believe it belongs to a woman because of the long, manicured nail.

Alexiou said the woman, who asked officials not to identify her, is at minimal risk of contracting illnesses from the finger.

“It’s an extremely low chance because the chili was cooked at a very high temperature that would have killed anything in the finger,” Alexiou said. Still, she said health officials would ask the woman’s doctor to test her blood “to make sure nothing got passed to her.”