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A brief history of rodents in soda containers

A brief history of rodents in soda containers

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On Sunday, a man in Texas handed a bottle of Dr. Pepper to his three-year-old grandson. The next day, the child allegedly found a dead rodent in the bottle, according to KPRC 2. By then, the three-year-old had ingested half its contents, the man says.

Now, the family says it has contacted the CDC and Dr. Pepper. It's not clear what might happen, but this certainly isn't the first time a story like this has surfaced. The history of people finding rodents — rats or mice, pick your poison — in soda containers is an extensive wasteland of disgusting and troubling anecdotes. So, in honor of these legendary finds, we've documented a few. Let's dive right in, shall we?

October 1994

October 19th, 1994 was a dark day for soda lovers. This is the day that the FDA revealed that it had found, way back in July, a rotting rat inside a Diet Pepsi can in Orange County — and decided against issuing a warning to the public or Pepsi-Cola. At the time, the FDA told the press that the incident was an isolated case, although the agency didn't know how the rat got inside the can in the first place.

"We did find the rat in the can. It was in pieces"

"We did find the rat in the can," FDA spokesperson Rosario Quintanilla-Vior said at the time. "It was in pieces, but it was there." But the agency kept things quiet because it had to make sure it had enough evidence before making a public announcement.

Meanwhile, Pepsi officials denied that they were the source of this rat-infested can, suggesting instead that this was a hoax and an attack against the company. "It's tough for anyone to know how the rat or mouse got into the can, but the FDA gave our plant a clean bill of health," Anne Ward, a spokesperson for Pepsi, told the LA Times.

The can in question had been purchased by a 22-year-old woman named Maria Del Consuelo Lazaro. She had ingested about a third of the can's contents before she "spit out some strange matter," the LA Times reported. Hours later, she brought the can to the Anaheim General Hospital, where she complained about abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. The emergency room report stated the following:

"Family brought in can of Pepsi; I removed the can with a can opener and found what apeared (sic) to be some sort of rhodent (sic) in the bottom of the can. Health Department notified."

The hospital sent the can to the FDA that day. In October, the woman filed a lawsuit against Pepsi and Albertson’s, the grocery store chain where she bought the can. We tried to find out what happened to this lawsuit, but failed. If anyone knows what happened, do let us know!

January 2012

In November 2008, an oil company worker named Ronald Ball called Pepsi and told the company that he had found a dead mouse inside a can of Mountain Dew. In response, the company met with Ball to collect the mouse, according to the Ball's lawyer. Later, Ball filed a lawsuit against Pepsi for $50,000 in damages.

Ball filed a lawsuit against Pepsi for $50,000 in damages

This series of events didn't truly make headlines until January 2012, however. That month, the world found out how Pepsi was planning to defend itself. In an affidavit, Pepsi moved to dismiss the case and used an expert's testimony to support the motion. That testimony was appropriately mind-blowing: according to Veterinary pathologist Lawrence McGill, Ball couldn't have found a mouse in the can of Mountain Dew because even if a mouse had been in the can, it would have dissolved into a "jelly-like substance" after 30 days. The can had apparently been shipped and sealed in August 2008. Gill also claimed that the mouse was too young to have been found in the can when it was sealed. It would not have been born by then, he said.

In the days that followed this revelation, reporters spoke to quite a few experts in an attempt to verify Pepsi's claims. In one instance, a University of Guelph food scientist named Massimo Marcone told the CBC that Mountain Dew couldn't have caused physical changes to a mouse inside a soda container. "There would not be enough acid in the matrix of the can to actually start causing those physical changes to the mouse," he said. "The mouse would start to spoil; there would not be enough acid to preserve the mouse. It would start to smell bad. But to say that the mouse would actually dissolve in about 300 milliliters of soft drink, it’s pretty hard."

The can would still "have the collagen and the soft tissue part."

But if the mouse had been placed in a "gigantic vat" filled with the soft drink for a long period, then maybe it would disintegrate, he said. Still, "if you look at a can of Coke, it has about a drop of phosphoric acid in the entire can," which is a "minuscule amount." So even though people say it can strip pennies, that's just a myth, Marcone said.

That's not what Yan-Fang Ren, a researcher at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, told Scientific American, however. Mountain Dew might be able to dissolve a rodent over the course of months, he said, because the citric acid that it contains erodes teeth. But the mouse wouldn't just disappear; a container of the soda would "still have the collagen and the soft tissue part. It will be like rubber," Ren said.

June 20th, 2012

On this day in rat-in-a-soda-container history, the Explorer Multimedia Inc. YouTube Channel published a video depicting a time-lapse that they said showed what happens when a dead mouse is placed in Mountain Dew for a total of 37 days. Be forewarned, what follows is very graphic and extremely disgusting:

The mouse does appear to have disintegrated somewhat after spending more than a month in "the Dew," but some of its hair, its guts and bones stayed intact. (Editor's Note: And the tail. The tail!) The people who made the video seem to think that this supports Pepsi's claims, but I'm not convinced.

August 2012

Slightly less than four years after allegedly finding a rodent in a can of Mountain Dew, Ball settled the lawsuit out of court for an undisclosed amount.

October 24th, 2012

For those of you who want to know what happens when a rodent spends an extended period of time in Mountain Dew, well I've got a treat for you. In October 2012, AngryFilmsProductions published a video depicting the remnant of a mouse that the videographers claim had been kept in Mountain Dew for about nine months. Once again, it seems that a mouse stowed Pepsi's finest will not disintegrate entirely.

Present Day

Dr. Pepper issued a statement earlier this week regarding the rodent that this three-year-old apparently found in one of the company's soda bottles. "What we know from our experience is that given the controls and safeguards we have in our production facilities it is virtually impossible for any foreign object to enter any container during the bottling process," the company said. "All of our containers enter our facility on pallets in our warehouse and remain covered until the moment they are placed on our high-speed filling lines. Once on the filling lines, they are inverted and rinsed out before they are filled and capped."

Dr. Pepper also offered to have the rodent analyzed by a lab to determine how it might have gotten inside the bottle. Apparently this process would involve searching the rodent's stomach contents for clues. It's not clear how useful that information might be.