PARIS — Deena Tracy said Wednesday she hadn't eaten in almost a day.
A day earlier, she caused a minor online sensation by posting a video on Facebook showing, she said, a bucket of maggot-infested takeout chicken purchased at Walmart in Oxford.
On Tuesday morning, while running errands at Walmart, Tracy said she got a bucket of fried chicken from the deli. She picked out popcorn chicken and fried wings for her daughters, and General Tso's chicken for herself.
At the store, a clerk filled an empty bucket with chicken stored in heating pans and printed out a sell-by date of Aug. 28, showing a purchase at 10:50 a.m. Her store receipt confirmed the purchase.
She said she put the bucket between the seats of her vehicle and ate eight or nine pieces on the way home, not looking closely at her food while she drove. She stopped at Moore Park on Route 26 in Paris for about half an hour so her daughter could play and said she kept the bucket closed at the time.
She got home, grabbed a fork and was about to take another bite of the General Tso's when she saw something tiny and white in the sauce on the top piece, she said. Then it moved. There were other insects climbing the side of the bucket, and many more in the chicken below.
She identified them as maggots.
“It's halfway in the bucket,” she said Wednesday. “I had to eat halfway through the bucket before I'd even seen it.”
“You could see one that was poking its head off the piece of chicken,” she said.
She told her daughter to drop a piece she'd just picked up.
She called her mother in shock.
“I said, 'you've got to see this. It's so disgusting,'” Tracy said. She took an angry, profanity-filled video with her cellphone and posted it on Facebook so her mother and friends could see for themselves. That was Tuesday afternoon. A day later, more than 4,000 people had shared it.
A manager at the Oxford Walmart declined to comment Wednesday morning.
Tracy said she called Walmart and was told they would refund her $12. She said she was told the chicken was cooked fresh every day. The manager suggested that the maggots may have entered the chicken at Moore Park, but Tracy said she kept the plastic shopping bag tied closed when she was there.
She said she wanted more than a refund. She wanted them to find out how it could have happened.
“I would have been a little more satisfied if she said, 'We'll look into this matter and we'll go down there and check it out,'” Tracy said.
Tracy said she's contacted an attorney but hasn't heard back yet. She said she isn't sure if there's anything she can sue over. She said she's saving the bucket in a tied-shut bag in her refrigerator for now.
According to Tracy, she's been a loyal Walmart shopper for years. She even worked as a cashier there eight years ago. She gets chicken there all the time. Not anymore, she said.
Jeanne Curran, spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Agriculture, said the department has received a complaint from Tracy and has assigned a consumer protection inspector from the Division of Quality Assurance and Regulations to the case. She said the Oxford Walmart is inspected yearly and a records check of the last two years found no complaints for the store.
Curran said the department expects the inspection to take a few days. If violations are found, they will be forwarded to the Attorney General's Office. As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Curran said she hadn't heard back from the inspector.
The Department of Agriculture oversees food safety at many Maine stores, including the Oxford Walmart.
Walmart spokeswoman Kayla Whaling said Walmart immediately began looking into the report Wednesday, sending a third-party pest management company to the store. They found “no cause for concern,” Whaling said.
“We're absolutely committed to offering our customers safe, quality food,” Whaling said. “We're working to investigate all aspects of this allegation.”
She said chicken comes to Walmart stores frozen. It's removed from the freezer, cooked, then put out in heated pans where it's sold to customers. The store routinely throws away cooked food that hasn't been bought, she said. “We believe it's unlikely for this to happen.”
Tracy, 30, lives in Paris with her husband, Matthew, and two daughters. She recently posted a request on the fundraising website gofundme.com for $1,200 to take her family to Florida on vacation and to pay for propane while they're away.
An online search found instances of her requesting donations and suggesting deals to friends. A check of court records in Oxford County show no civil suits or consumer actions filed by Tracy in district or superior courts.
Tracy said she canceled that vacation a while back and said she wasn't out for money when she shared the video on Facebook. “I just want to make sure it doesn't happen to anyone else.”