Every once in a while, something keeps cropping up in the U.S. food supply called "foreign materials." It probably does in other industrialized nations as well. I haven't been listing the recalls, but maybe I should.
So what is this stuff? Well, it could be anything - bits of plastic, bits of metals, human hair, fabric. Even glass, which is the most common cause of injury. These unexpected things won't give you foodborne illness (which is why I haven't been covering them) but they could harm you in other ways. And no, they are not "foreign" as in "from another country." At least, they need not be. They can come from any food plant anywhere, and sometimes from packaging as well. Where food is partly processed locally - say, at your local meat or fish store, such materials can also enter there.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) these small non-edible items in your food can give you: esophageal laceration, esophageal perforation, fistula formation, laceration or perforation of other parts of the digestive tract (such as the pharynx, stomach, intestine), choking (blockage of the airway, with children under 3 at greatest risk), lacerations of the mouth, tongue, and of course, broken teeth and dentures (if you have them). This isn't even the end of the list. Reportedly, the most common type of complaint received by the government is injury to the mouth or throat.
And of course, there have been all those fingers or bits of fingers that have been found in food: the planted one in Wendy's chili and the apparently actual pieces of finger found in TGI's burger, in a chocolate popsicle and a ham sandwich. Accidents happen, and who knows where that bit of finger went to?
A couple of months ago, I found a piece of hard plastic in the Dungeness crabmeat I bought at my usual retailer's. Once I found (yes, true) a small rusty nail in my dessert at a local French restaurant (it recently caved in to the economy and I can't honestly say I shed any tears although they did not charge us for the meal). And a couple of years ago there was a piece of metal in my bread. The large majority of these types of incidents are not reported.
But some are. Here's a recall from today: bits of hard plastic in "Lean Cuisine Simple Favorites" frozen spaghetti and meatball entrees sold by Nestle Prepared Foods Company, Gaffney, S.C.. They are having to recall about 10,260 pounds of product. Maybe it will be recycled into dog food. Given the rubber toys, cell phones, rugs and eye glass frames that my new puppy has been consuming, it probably won't be any worse.
Another reason for chewing your food better.