13 Investigates


Health officials fail to crack down on McDonald's worker who spit in customer's drink

Police sent case to DA for criminal prosecution
mcdonalds on tropicana
McDonald's drive thru
Posted at 5:57 AM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 11:23:57-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — You can call it disgusting. You can call it dangerous.

The woman on the receiving end of a drive-thru nightmare agrees wholeheartedly.

"It's really serious. It's reckless," said Cynthia Baer, who will never forget her Dec. 22 visit to the drive-through at her local McDonald's, an independently owned franchise on Tropicana Avenue and Jones Boulevard.

She placed an order, then tried to add an iced coffee at the end.

"And then the woman that came to bring me the drink at the third window looked angry, didn't say anything to me--not their normal greeting or 'thanks so much, have a good day'--nothing. Handed me the drink and kind of shut the window aggressively," Baer said.

Things were about to get vile.

"It was the coffee, that I drank almost all of, that had mucous in it. A large amount of spit, saliva," Baer recalls. "I felt violated! I felt absolutely violated and I had a concern about what you could potentially get from ingesting someone's spit."

Five days after drinking the contaminated coffee, "I realized that I was having symptoms from COVID. I got very sick, got tested and it was positive. My children, about four days later, also got very sick and tested positive for COVID," said Baer.

PREVIOUS: 'It's definitely not coffee': Spitting-mad McDonald's worker causes health scare for Vegas customer

There's no way of tracing Baer's COVID case back to the coffee but in a recorded call with McDonald's insurance company, she brought it up.

"Well, I got COVID from it, besides drinking someone's mucous," Baer told the agent.

"And that's like the vast majority of it," he responded. "Usually when someone slips and breaks their arm it's really straightforward. With this, I don't even know where to start to be completely honest. I'm willing to work with you."

The insurance agent told Baer that McDonald's fired the employee after confronting her with a surveillance video of the incident.

"The angle's not very clear but she acknowledged it, so to me, video or not, she said she did that," the agent said.

McDonald's offered her a few thousand dollars, which to date she has not accepted.

"To me, it's like a threat to your life. It really is," Baer said.

Food tampering is a felony.

13 Investigates obtained the police report that identifies the McDonald's cashier as a suspect in the crime of poisoning or adulterating Baer's beverage.

We're not naming her at this time because she has not been charged with a crime.

We reached out to her multiple times for comment but she has not responded.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department submitted the case to the Clark County District Attorney, where it's currently under review.

So, what about the agency charged with protecting public health?

Despite McDonald's confirming the incident and firing the employee, the Southern Nevada Health District says the agency was "unable to get enough verifiable information to proceed with an investigation."

No action has been taken against the McDonald's franchise or the now-former employee's food handler card.

The health district said it was "informed the employee had been terminated, and there was no additional action the agency could take."

A spokesperson sent a statement, adding, "It is the Health District's goal to work cooperatively with the facilities that it regulates. Our jurisdictional oversight is limited.. And... The Health District was not provided with any information as requested to follow up on the incident."

"There's kind of a gap in the law," said Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom, a member of the board of health, which oversees the health district.

"The fact that there's no ability to follow up with that particular employee to make sure that he or she isn't involved in the food business again. That's the scary part," Segerblom said.

Board of Health Chairman and North Las Vegas City Councilman Scott Black added in a statement: "It sounds like the McDonald's operator was not willing to share details or specifics regarding the matter."

In fact, the health district says the first time the agency got the woman's name was from 13 Investigates.

"If the restaurant refused to provide the information, then that would obviously be a problem," Segerblom said.

But 13 investigates is getting a different story from McDonald's.

Through a public relations firm, Franchise owner/operator F. Ronald Smith said in a statement, "We have been in direct contact with the Southern Nevada Health District [since immediately after this incident was reported to us in December] and have informed them that we are and always have been willing to work together to address this matter."

We're also told McDonald's asked the health district about having the former employee's food handler card revoked but at that time, they were told nothing could be done due to the Health District's current policies.

"Based upon what you uncovered, we will look deeper into it and figure out if there's a way--between the health card and the criminal justice system--we can make sure that people who do something like this don't get to handle food anymore," said Segerblom. "Obviously, there's a disconnect and we need to focus on that."

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