The Eleven Most Shockingly Gross Food-Industry Settlements
How about a knife-studded sub sandwich? Photo: Dmitry Naumov/Dmitry Naumov

This week KFC’s parent company was ordered to pay over $8 million in a settlement to the family of an Australian girl who suffered brain damage after eating the chain’s chicken. The case is completely disturbing, but the scarier news is that it’s hardly an isolated incident in the annals of fast food. In fact, it seems like every month we’ve got another good citizen falling prey to the industry’s safety lapses and plain old stupidity. Here now, a look back at eleven such cases where food companies were pressed to settle with their victims customers, each one more disgusting and disconcerting than the one that came before.

Related: KFC Ordered to Pay Millions After Customer Gets Chicken-Related Brain Damage

In 2006, PepsiCo. was sued by the state of California over the use of lead in its bottle labels. The company was exportng the bottles in question down to Mexico, which eventually wound up in California. The company agreed to take the hazardous lead out of its bottles and was also hit with one million dollars in civil penalties.
In 2009, McDonald’s made restitution of 10 million dollars in donations to Hindu and vegetarian groups who were understandably upset that the chain had never disclosed the fact that its fries were made with beef by-products.
In 2008, a woman settled with Subway for $2,500 two years after cutting her lip on a small blade in her sandwich at a Manhattan location of the chain. “It was … so sharp it could’ve taken my tongue off in a second,” she claimed.
In 2005, the nation’s numero uno fast-food giant paid a settlement of $8.5 million in a series of class action suits brought on by the anti-trans-fat patrol, who claimed the restaurant hadn’t lowered its levels as promised and didn’t let anyone know. Seven million went to the American Heart Association, while most of the remainder was used to let us know just how bad trans-fat is for everyone.
In 2005, now California Governor Jerry Brown sued huge food companies Burger King, KFC, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Frito-Lay, Heinz, Kettle Foods, and Lance Inc. over their levels of acrylamide, a carcinogenic by-product of browning food. While no money was paid out, the companies settled by agreeing to lower the levels of the hazardous chemical in their offerings.
In 2007, eight people were sickened with botulism after eating Castleberry, Kroger, and Austex Hot Dog Chili Sauces, traced back to a Bumble Bee-owned plant in Augusta where a cooker had failed to work correctly and kill the contaminant. Recently, the company was sued by a New Mexico woman claiming the posioned chili killed her brother.
In 2006, Chrissy Haley, wife of Kansas City Chiefs’ coach Todd Haley, visited McDonald’s with her nanny, only to discover a dead rat hiding in the foliage. Having already started in on the salad, the two became ill and later sought an apology from the Golden Arches. When none came, the Haleys sued the chain for $1.7 million, leading to an out-of-court settlement.
In 2005, a man in Tipp City, Ohio filed a $50,000 suit against Arby’s. His complaint? He bit into a sandwich only to encounter a small swatch of human flesh. The skin turned out to belong to the manager, who’d sliced his finger while cutting lettuce.
San Diego’s Foodmaker Inc. settled dozens upon dozens of claims sparked in 1993 when E. coli spread through hamburger patties at the company’s Jack-in-the-Box chain. Four were killed by the contamination and hundreds were sickened in the Northwest, leading some to call into Jack-in-the-Box restaurants and label employees “baby-killers.”
In 2005, Chi Chi’s Mexican Restaurant began paying out more than $40 million after spreading Hepatitis A to 660 people, four of whom died. While hundreds of lawsuits resulted, one Richard Miller was awarded $6.5 million after his infection required surgery for a liver transplant.
Perhaps the most famous and misunderstood case in the history of fast food lawsuits, New Mexico’s 79-year-old Stella Liebeck suffered third-degree burns on her groin, thighs, and backside, and required skin grafts, after spilling McDonald’s coffee that was kept heated at 180-190 degrees on herself in her grandson’s car in 1992. A judge rejected an award to the senior of more than $2.7 million and the matter was later settled out of court. Liebeck, just one of many people claiming serious burns from the chain’s scalding hot coffee, was long mocked by a misinformed public for supposedly abusing her right to sue. Photo: Jason Kempin/2012 Getty Images
The Eleven Most Shockingly Gross Food-Industry Settlements