BLOOMINGTON - Applebee's is investigating a report of a dead but intact four-inch-long lizard found in a customer's salad during lunch last Friday at the Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar in Bloomington.
"We are aware of the report," company spokesman Miles McMillin said Thursday. He said Applebee's quality assurance department is working with the franchisee of the Bloomington restaurant, 502 N. Veterans Parkway.
"We're in the middle of conducting that investigation right now," said McMillin, adding, the local restaurant is "just as motivated to find out what happened here."
Bree Davis of the McLean County Health Department said a health department sanitarian went to Applebee's on Friday after receiving a complaint from the customer.
"This is not a common thing and, from our perspective, the restaurant was not at fault," Davis said. "It's just one of those extraordinary circumstances." No action has been taken against the eatery.
She said the department's "sanitarian did not see the lizard" because it had been discarded by Applebee's staff. "But management confirmed it did happen."
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McMillin wouldn't comment on what may have happened, but said, "Nothing is more important to Applebee's than the well-being of our guests," adding the report was being taken "very seriously."
Davis said the health department notified the Illinois Department of Public Health because that's standard procedure, and informed the U.S. Food & Drug Administration because the lettuce came from California.
Asked whether the health department thought the lizard came with the lettuce, or whether it was placed with the lettuce later, Davis said, "I don't want to speculate or place blame."
The health department has not fined or sanctioned the restaurant, Davis said. The sanitarian's investigation revealed that nothing appeared out of the ordinary and that Applebee's staff did nothing wrong, she said.
Employees showed how they wash the lettuce, cut it, then wash it again. "They couldn't fathom how it (a lizard) got through the process…and they profusely apologized," Davis said.
The health department would not release the name of the complainant and Pantagraph efforts on Wednesday and Thursday to locate the customer were not successful.
A manager of the restaurant referred The Pantagraph to a director of operations, who did not return phone calls.