JOHANNESBURG – A South African spokesperson for fast food retailer KFC claims a California man tried to deceive the public with an online post about a dubious take-away meal.
Last week Thursday, Californian security guard Devorise Dixon posted photographs and pictures of deep-fried meat on Facebook.
"The pic is hoax," read a recent post on Dixon's wall.
Another friend wrote, "Bro I will never go to KFC."
"Damn I thought this story was fake until I came here to the page!"
While Dixon did not ouright claim the meat was that of a rat, he described himself noticing a piece of KFC was "very hard and rubbery" and "in a shape of a rat with a tail" in his post.
In a week, his original post has been distributed on social media over 22,000 times. One of several copies of a video of the meat has been viewed over 800,000 times.
The material was picked up by news agencies in the United States, Costa Rica, India and South Africa.
Doug Smart, the Managing Director for KFC Africa, has responded to local interest in the mateiral with a statement. It describes a legal battle underway over the "alleged rat" images in the United States.
"Images of this meal were posted on social media and have gained attention in the South African market," said Smart.
"KFC takes food safety extremely seriously, and the KFC team in the United States have made various attempts to contact the customer, but he is refusing to talk to them directly or through an attorney."
They have requested the product be sent to them so that an independent lab can evaluate the product at their own expense, however, the customer refuses to provide it.
According to Smart and KFC's version of events, Dixon is unwilling to co-operate by providing the meat for testing. "KFC is left to believe that he intended to deceive the public with this hoax and are considering all options."
At least two KFC branches in South Africa were embroiled in controversy this year.
There was a public outcy in May after images and video emerged of Braamfontein staff washing chicken on the ground of a back yard. Soon afterward, another customer posted video of Gatemax staff in uMhlanga apparently sharpening knifes in the street.
KFC responded to both instances, saying a staff blunder was behind the Braamfontein incident and staff at the Gatemax outlet had been issued a sharp warning over the video.