Ryan Hart said he had nearly polished off his sandwich last Friday when he bit into something tough to chew that tasted like rubber, so he spit it out.
Turns out it tasted like finger. The fleshy pad of an unfortunate employee's finger, apparently.
"I was like, `That (has) to be a finger,"' Hart, 14, told the Jackson Citizen Patriot on Wednesday. "I was about to puke. ... It was just nasty."
The employee apparently cut her finger on a meat slicer and left her station without immediately telling anyone, said Steve Hall, the environmental health director for the Jackson County health department. Her co-workers continued filling orders before they became aware of what happened, he said.
John Gray, a spokesman for Atlanta-based Arby's, released a statement Wednesday apologizing for what he described as an isolated and "unfortunate incident." He said Arby's is still investigating, but has determined that the Jackson workers shut down food production as soon as they found out what happened and thoroughly cleaned and sanitized the restaurant.
The injured employee was treated at a hospital. Gray said the franchise has fully cooperated with health officials and was given the approval to remain open.
Ryan's mother, Jamie Vail, was incredulous. She and her friend, Joe Wheaton, had taken Ryan and his 11-year-old brother to the Arby's drive-through, and she said she thought her son was joking when he exclaimed he had found a piece of a finger in his sandwich.
"Somebody loses a finger, and you keep sending food out the window? I can't believe that," said Vail. She and Wheaton said the severed section was about an eighth to a quarter-inch thick and at least one inch long.
Vail said she called 911 and met police at a local hospital, where her son's blood was drawn and he was prescribed some medication.
Ryan said he is feeling fine. Vail said she has been in touch with a lawyer, but has not decided what course to take.