Unilever/Bertolli Meal / Foreign Particles Found/Consumer Safety & Service Issues
On August 12, 2010, my husband and I shared a Bertolli Shrimp Penne & Asparagus meal. At one point I bit down on something hard that broke into smaller particles. My husband asked why I was grimacing and pulling stuff from my mouth. When I explained there was some sort of very hard, black stuff in my portion, he mentioned he had noticed something gritty that he swallowed, presuming it was sand from the shrimp.
I called the contact number on the package that evening. The after-hours message gave a number to call for product emergencies, and I did so. I gave my information to a male rep and was assured I would be contacted first thing the next morning. I waited until after 10:00 a.m. EDT on the 13th for a call back. Finally, I called the New Jersey non-emergency consumer number, explained that someone should have called us by now and was only told a "Gina Papale" had been assigned as our Consumer Services Specialist, but she wasn't into work yet. When she called and we began speaking, I noted the lack of urgency and concern in her voice. This was irritating, and I told her so. I didn't understand why she wasn't immediately setting it up to collect our particles for analysis (only 1/2 of the total I collected so we would have a backup for analysis in case what was sent was mysteriously lost).
Ms. Papale called back later in the day to tell me a courier would be picking up our foreign matter the next morning. I reminded her we needed a dentist visit form since I reported to her I was having gum and tooth pain. The courier indeed came the next day for the black grit, but did not give me any dental visit form. In fact, despite a reminder call to Ms. Papale on August 17th that we had received nothing whatsoever from her offices, we did not get the dental form needed for me to set up an appointment until August 24, 2010. In her cover letter, curiously back-dated as August 13th but not mailed before August 20th, we also received some coupons. The previous week we received a Unilever gift box by FedEx with no letter or form.
Would we have preferred to get the dental form on the 14th instead of the courier pickup, and also instead of the gift box on the 19th or 20th? Absolutely. Especially since when I immediately called our dentist on the 24th to set up an appointment and gave the assistant details as to why, she noted that it was so far after the incident, it might be difficult to determine what the form required of the exam. Also, I told her the form required dental x-rays from before the black grit, and she confirmed what I suspected: I had only bite-wing pictures on file, which would not show the area in question.
When I heard nothing further on the analysis results of particles sent, I called Ms. Papale and left a voice message on the early afternoon of August 31st, I received no return call. I called the general consumer help number again to inquire if she was out-of-office and was assured she was not. This rep also promised to leave an additional voice message for Gina to call me. However, she never did and still never has. On September 1st I began trying to get to her supervisor and/or a Consumer Services Manager. I was successfully thwarted in multiple attempts both by phone and by e-mail to speak with anyone about Gina's terrible consumer service, my dental situation, and the results of the lab analysis. That same afternoon of 9/1 at 3:00 p.m., we received a FedEx delivery. This included a letter from Ms. Papale dated August 31st (so why didn't she call me?) and a container returning (supposedly) the particles we'd given to the courier on the 14th.
Disregarding her embarrassing grammar and punctuation, Ms. Papale's letter contained nonsense logic and is purely a non-responsive answer to our three weeks of waiting on tenterhooks to know what we ingested the night of August 12th. Here is a quoted section from that final letter:
"There is nothing associated with the Bertolli Shrimp Penne and Asparagus which resembles this material therefore, we are unable to determine how this became associated with your meal."
What?! If we had thought the hard, black grit was a normal part of the meal, why then would we be calling and asking for analysis and a quality control investigation? Her statement defies all logic and consumer safety common sense, and the analysis was done so poorly it could only be concluded to be, quote, "burnt material whose structure seems to be similar to caramelized food material." Unilever's conclusion -- per Gina Papale -- to ultimately ignore the seriousness of foreign material in its products is frightening and actionable.
Doing Unilever's job for them, here is the Bertolli package information so consumers can avoid ingesting these products:
UPC Code = [protected]
Exp. Date = 0746 2 JUL2011 yu07
Control # = [protected]
Until we get a resolution and sincere company apology, we will be boycotting Unilever food products and recommend readers do so as well.