It’s unusual for a case about personal misconduct with food to end up in a federal court, but the prosecution of Anthony Garcia in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is decidedly odd.
Garcia, 32, was indicted for feeding semen, disguised as yoghurt, to an unsuspecting shopper while giving out food samples in Sunflower Market, the grocery store where he was working.
Garcia offered the “yoghurt” to shoppers to taste, approaching one woman who took the spoon that he proffered. After tasting the sample, she immediately spat it out on the floor saying it was “gross and disgusting” and that it tasted like semen.
The woman also wiped her mouth on the garment she was wearing to get the taste out of her mouth. Police were called and they collected samples of the woman’s spit from the floor and took the garment she was wearing as evidence.
The police obtained a search warrant and collected blood and DNA samples from Garcia. They then matched DNA from the sperm cells found in the victim’s saliva and on the garment with Garcia’s DNA.
Investigators with the US Food and Drug Administration argued that Garcia falsely claimed not to know that the spoon he handed the customer contained semen.
Garcia was arrested and indicted for adulterating food and making false statements to federal investigators. In a statement that even the best defence counsel would find hard to dispute, the prosecutor, Kenneth Gonzales, said: “No one should have to endure this type of experience simply because she or he accepts a food sample while shopping for groceries.”
Garcia has just pleaded guilty on both charges and now faces imprisonment for three years.
In England, 2009, Richard Benjamin Shannon was working at the sandwich chain Subway in Brownhills in the Midlands. For reasons he later found hard to explain, Shannon took pieces of lettuce from one of the serving trays, put some of them up his nose and then chewed on others before replacing them all in the tray.
His exploits were filmed by a friend on a mobile phone and then posted on YouTube. In a bizarre twist, Shannon was only arrested by police later after an incident in which an irate woman, who recognised him from the YouTube film, went to the Subway where he worked and hurled a chair at him.
The film of Shannon’s conduct with the lettuce was viewed by Walsall magistrates’ court during his trial.
The court could have sentenced Shannon to six months in prison, but acknowledged his remorse and guilty plea and ordered him to do 300 hours of unpaid work for the community.
In Henry VIII’s reign, contaminating food was something for which the culprit could also be punished in the community. For poisoning the soup of the Bishop of Rochester in 1530, a man called Rose was taken to Smithfield in London where he was quite publicly boiled to death.