RALEIGH, N.C. – How much is a stray tooth worth? Somewhere between $35 and $35,000.

Or so hopes Shea Harris of Raleigh, who discovered what looks like a human tooth embedded in the dinosaur-shaped gummy fruit snack he was eating.

The tooth was not his own.

On the afternoon of Jan. 15, Harris, 25, purchased two boxes of Kroger-brand dinosaur fruit snacks on sale for 99 cents each. He was “killing those snacks” – even though, because of his braces, he had to suck the gummies rather than chew them. By evening, he had finished one box and was into the third packet of the second – working on a T-Rex, to be precise – when he felt something hard in his mouth.

He spit out the partially dissolved orange chewy creature – with what appeared to be a human tooth still halfway embedded in the head.

“I was freaked out by it!” Harris said. “It was disgusting.”

He immediately hopped into his car and headed back to the Kroger where he bought the snacks, and showed the gummy and its apparently dental cargo to the clerk. The store wasn’t much help. So Harris called the toll-free number on the box.

He eventually got a call back from a customer service representative for ConAgra Foods, the massive food company that produces the snacks.

“We take consumer comments and concerns very seriously,” Stephanie Childs, a spokeswoman for ConAgra, told The News & Observer.

Harris was unimpressed.

“They offered me $35 or the option of filing a claim,” said Harris, who works for a law enforcement agency he declined to name.

He said he found the amount insulting. “I told them I’d be filing a claim.”

At first, Harris imagined he’d go through a lawyer to collect big bucks. But none of the attorneys he contacted would take the case. Though Harris worries about hidden contagion, he hasn’t suffered any real harm from the admittedly disgusting discovery rattling around in his mouth.

ConAgra called in a claims management firm, which had the crunchy-chewy remains of the T-Rex picked up on Wednesday for independent testing.

Harris doesn’t know what will happen next. Even if the object is not a tooth, he said, it shouldn’t have been in a fruit snack. If he’d been chewing, he could have broken a tooth.

So Harris has submitted his own claim, along with a letter seeking an apology and $35,000.

“I know that might sound outrageous,” Harris said. “But I know this is worth more than $35.”

He’s willing to negotiate. As for fruit snacks? For what it’s worth, he’ll never eat one again.

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