It started out as a day just like any other for 31-year-old Sarah Douglas. The mother of two is eight months pregnant with her third child. She decided to stop by her local McDonald’s to grab a latte on the way to her son’s baseball game. She had no idea what she was in for.
Sarah got her drink from the drive-through window and went on her way. A few minutes later, she took a sip of the medium latte while driving, and instantly she knew something was wrong. She immediately pulled over and rinsed out her mouth. She discovered that her latte had an overwhelming chemical smell. Opening the cup showed a brown, murky liquid that was very clearly not coffee. She drove back to the McDonald’s and was first offered another latte, which she obviously declined. When she received their explanation as to what happened with her original drink, she was shocked.
Sarah Douglas is eight months pregnant with her third child. She decided to stop at her local McDonald’s in Alberta, Canada, for a latte.
She got a medium latte and went on her way.
Once she took a sip of her beverage, she knew something was wrong. She told Lethbridge News Now, “I immediately had to put my hazard lights on and pull over and spit it out and rinse my mouth out with… in the door of my vehicle I had some water. I opened up the lid of the coffee and out pours this pungent smell of chemical. It wasn’t a latte at all.”
When she drove back and asked to speak to a manager, they asked if they could replace her latte. “I showed him the coffee and he had asked if I wanted a new one, and I said, ‘absolutely not, this is unacceptable.’ I said I need to speak to someone higher up and he said he was the only supervisor on at the time, and he gave me his manager’s phone number.”
She was told that two cleaning lines were hooked up to the latte machine at the time she got the coffee. They showed Sarah the solution, which she took a picture of so she could call poison control.
Thankfully, she got in contact with poison control and learned that she would be OK, as she didn’t ingest any of the liquid.
The franchisee owner, Dan Brown, released this statement to Lethbridge News Now following the incident.
“Since learning about the complaint, our team has been in very close contact with the guest and apologized to her. The health inspector also visited my restaurant and is not investigating further.
“McDonald’s is renowned for its food safety protocols and I am sorry that this happened in my restaurant here in Lethbridge.
“What happened is that the machine was being cleaned – as it is every morning. Unfortunately, the milk supply line was connected to the cleaning solution while this guest’s drink was made.
“We have taken immediate action to review the proper cleaning procedures with the team and have put additional signage up as an added reminder.”
One fact about the incident is particularly shocking.
A particularly shocking fact Sarah discovered when relaying her story to the McDonald’s staff was that this wasn’t the first time something like this has happened. She said that “another co-worker of his had also overheard what had been going on, and was a little bit upset at the situation and said that this had happened before. And she was a little mad that it was occurring again.”
In fact, after the story went public, another man came forward and told CBC News that the same thing had happened to him at a different McDonald’s location, according to the Independent.
As the story has spread, former employees at various McDonald’s locations have chimed in and explained how this could be possible.
It seems like there were a lot of ways this situation could have been avoided. People are urging McDonald’s to revisit its policies to prevent such issues from occurring in the future.
In response to the scandal, a spokeswoman for McDonald’s told the Independent, “We are aware that there are other isolated incidents of this nature. Even one incident is too many.”
As for Sarah, she has no hard feelings about the situation. She’s noted that she’s never had a problem at the McDonald’s before and acknowledges this was an honest mistake. Aside from the burning sensation in her mouth that lasted nearly an hour (!), both she and baby will be OK.
Sarah hopes that speaking out about what happened will compel the fast-food industry to put better safeguards in place to prevent these incidents.