RIFLE - Consider it a modern-day twist on the story of the Trojan horse.When Diane Geist brought home some mixed nuts, still in their shells, over the holidays, it turns out one of the shells was concealing a condom, she said.Her husband, Brian, discovered it on the morning of New Year's Eve when he was reading a book and dining on some nuts at their home south of Silt, she said. "My husband cracked open a hazelnut and a condom popped out. He couldn't believe it. He just sort of sat there and stared at it and he said, 'You wouldn't believe what I found in this nut," Geist said Tuesday.She assumed he might have been talking about a bug. But it turned out to be a bright-yellow condom, still rolled up, she said.Geist said she called the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Rifle, where she had bought the nuts from a bulk bin about a week before Christmas, and spoke to an assistant manager who told her how to contact the nut supplier, Diamond Foods. The two also had a good laugh over the incident, Geist said."It's just too funny," Geist said.A Wal-Mart corporate spokesperson, Karen Burk, said Tuesday she thought it odd that Geist hadn't brought the condom and nutshell pieces to the store."We have no way of knowing if this was indeed an actual incident," she said."If that happened we would certainly would want them to bring it to us and let us look at it and investigate it. We would encourage that because we want to make sure something like that doesn't happen," she said.
Geist said she could understand Wal-Mart being skeptical."I would be too; it's crazy," she said.But she decided to make a trip to the store later Tuesday."I'll baggie up the evidence and run it down there," she said.Afterward, she reported that an assistant manager photographed the evidence, then asked Geist what she should do next. Geist suggested e-mailing the photo to corporate offices, but also said she didn't want to give up the condom."We probably won't throw it away for a while. It's too funny of a souvenir," she said.But for now, the evidence is in police custody, after Geist decided she should report the incident to Rifle police late Tuesday afternoon. Police chief Daryl Meisner said he hadn't had a chance to look into the matter in depth but wasn't sure what laws were violated, if any. "We're trying to figure out what we can do, if anything," he said.Vicki Zeigler, public relations manager for Diamond Foods, said tampering with food is a federal offense. "People that do that, it's pretty despicable," she said.Meisner said he has heard that condoms sometimes are distributed in nutshells in bars around the country, and wonders if one of them ended up in the Wal-Mart bulk bin.As it turns out, the Web site www.thisistrue.com says Reuters reported an incident in which an Ontario woman found a condom in a walnut bought at a grocery store. "Apparently, a nearby sex shop sells condoms in plastic nutshells, and someone tossed one into the supermarket's bin as a joke," the site says.Told of that report, Meisner said, "I'm suspecting something like that here but I'm not sure how it got into a shell that doesn't appear to be plastic."
Burk and Zeigler both expressed surprise at a condom being able to fit into the relatively small shell of a hazelnut. Geist agreed it was a tight fit. She said her husband speculates that the shell had been cut in half and glued back together.Meisner, who didn't see signs of sawing or gluing, said he doesn't doubt the Geists' story. Geist said it's not something she could have concocted if she tried."It's so bizarre, I'm not clever enough to make up something that crazy," she said.She said she has no interest in pursuing it from a legal standpoint."No one was in danger. It was just a practical joke," she said.Besides, she said, "I don't think a judge would give any money for a condom in a nut."But she said the incident makes her wonder if other tampered nuts are out there, and whether someone would put something dangerous in one. Both Wal-Mart and Diamond Foods share that concern."We want to make sure we're only putting safe, quality products on our shelves for our customers," said Burk, Wal-Mart's spokesperson.Said Zeigler, "We're very, very dismayed and we do take it very seriously and we definitely do investigate."Neither she nor Burk are aware of similar incidents of tampering occurring with the nuts they sell.Zeigler said she hates to speculate, "but it could have been a prank played by almost anybody."
She said Diamond gets its hazelnuts from reliable companies, and makes use of an internal lab and constant inspections of its products."We know they're good when they leave our plant. Once they leave our control, they're out of our control," she said.One problem with unpackaged products is that they are more susceptible to tampering, she said. She said Diamond is moving toward more packaged nuts."We found that a lot of consumers prefer packaged products because of this type of thing or just because it's in a sealed package," she said.Said Geist, "I know I'm not buying things out of a bin anymore. It's kind of creepy."But it could have been worse. At least the condom hadn't been used."Oh God, that would freak me out," she said.As for the rest of the nuts she had bought?"My husband finished them off," Geist said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org