Mari Ostendorf poured a bowl of Raisin Bran for her 3-year-old daughter and heard a pronouncement that caught her attention: "Hey momma, I don't think this belongs in my cereal."
The little girl was holding what looked like a stick or bone and Mari was none too happy. She took pictures of it and called Kellogg's, which makes Raisin Bran.
The customer service agent on the phone asked her to put it under running water because the cereal can clump up and it would fall apart when it got soaked. That didn't happen. So they asked for the photos and the object itself.
"I thought, if I send this away, not knowing what it is, it will go into some limbo land and we'll never know what it is," she told Consumer Ally. "I'm curious about what it is. If it is a bird bone or something worse. I want to know. It does say high in fiber on the box. It's just not clear where the fiber is coming from."
She sent the photos and heard nothing, receiving only a couple of coupons for free cereal and a postage-paid envelope for the object. (Coupons are a traditional compensation for foreign objects in food. Walmart offered a $1 coupon last year to woman who found most of a frog in her frozen, store-brand vegetable bag. After first ignoring the incident, the manufacturer, Pictsweet, also offered coupons.)
Mari, a Los Angeles-based project manager for a national company, still has it and has been waiting three months for an answer from the company about the nearly inch-long, solid object floating in her kid's breakfast bowl. She said he has no desire to get any kind of compensation -- free Raisin Bran wasn't all that appealing, anyhow. She just wants an honest answer.
So Consumer Ally sent the photos to Kellogg's -- the ones she sent to them could not be located -- and spokesman Mike Morrissey said company experts have determined what the object is.
Our experts have examined the photos and report that the object appears to be a vine stem," he told Consumer Ally. "The raisins in the cereal, of course, come from grapes. Although our suppliers have processes in place to separate vine stems from the raisins, we occasionally get reports of vine stems in our cereal. One key indicator is the striations or grooves that run the length of the object. These are common in vegetative matter, while a bone would be smooth."
Mari said she accepts that it is piece of vine, but didn't appreciate that it took a Consumer Ally intervention to get an answer. She said was concerned that Raisin Bran is being made in Mexico and wondered whether that affects quality control.
"How does it happen that a grape vine, a clear choking hazard, makes it past quality control and into my box of Raisin Bran," Mari asked. "What is Kellogg doing to ensure that this does not happen again?"
The whole incident has been troubling, she said.
"It is frustrating for me, a long time Kellogg's consumer, who has now lost faith in the brand," Mari concluded. "I vividly remember my grandparents eating their Raisin Bran every morning -- a big bowl to start off the day. That is one tradition that will not be passed along to my daughters now."
What's in my cereal? A Raisin Bran mystery