PINE MEADOW, CA—Pine Meadow resident Ed Swaney made a gruesome discovery Sunday, when he opened a package of E.L. Fudge Sandwich Cookies and found a tiny, golden-fingernailed appendage believed to be an elfin index finger.
"It was horrifying," said 43-year-old Swaney, a shoe salesman and frequent snacker. "At first, I thought it was just a broken-off little cookie chunk, but then my tongue brushed a tiny bone on the end, and I spit it out."
Forensic investigators say the digit is an index finger, measuring nearly three-quarters of an inch, and bearing a small signet ring embossed with a tree design. A spokesperson for Kellogg's, Keebler's parent company, denied responsibility for the incident.
"The finger found in the box of E.L. Fudge cookies is nearly an inch long," said Kenneth Froud, director of public relations for Kellogg's. "An average Keebler elf is about as tall as a Chips Deluxe cookie. The finger in question is far too big to be that of an elf."
Riverside County police are investigating the grisly incident, obtaining warrants to access workelves' compensation records and interviewing employees in hopes of locating the finger's owner. Assisting in the investigation is Harvey Quinn, a workplace-safety and labor-relations consultant and longtime critic of Keebler workplace conditions.
According to Quinn, Keebler's denials are "a cunning subterfuge."
"When the elves roll fudge-stripe cookies down the production line, they are about three inches tall," Quinn said. "However, when they are outside of the enchanted tree, they grow to nearly three feet."
Quinn said the "real issue" is Kellogg's track record of nonhuman workers' rights violations, explaining that the company is currently facing multiple lawsuits, including cruelty to an endangered talking species of bipedal tiger and toucan abuse.
"Since the '70s, the Keebler elves have toiled around the clock in a cramped, unventilated, hollow tree," Quinn said. "The stories you hear about 'magic ovens' and 'elfin magic' are nonsense. The only thing 'magic' about the Keebler tree is the quote-unquote 'invisible gold' the elves are paid in."
Quinn said Keebler's safety violations number in the hundreds, and singled out a controversial, high-velocity device retrofitted in 1992 to manufacture Chips Deluxe cookies.
"During the 13 years the device has been in use, it has pelted numerous elves with chocolate chips," Quinn said. "Just last year, an elf was hospitalized after being pummeled with chips moving at speeds exceeding 80 miles per hour."
The elf, 212-year-old Ireth Telemnar, later died from massive internal bleeding and head trauma.
While no public records are kept on the number of magic-creature body parts that turn up in processed foodstuffs, Calvin Blosser, a senior researcher for the Food and Drug Administration, said that their frequency is very low.
"We estimate that fantasy-creature body fragments in foods such as cookies, crackers, and cereal account for no more than two parts per million," Blosser said. "This is lower than the maximum allowed amount for insect parts and mouse hairs in equivalent products."
Some are questioning Blosser's estimate, as the elfin-finger incident follows an occurrence in April of this year, in which a Sioux City, IA man found the lower half of a diminutive humanoid creature with green leggings, a belt buckle, and pointy green shoes in a box of Lucky Charms cereal. The man settled out of court with General Mills for an undisclosed sum.