"He Dumped the Rice Back in” — Woman Says Panda Express Violated Food Safety Regulations

Renowned Chinese food staple Panda Express is accused of serving a woman's messed-up order to others. The restaurant responded after facing criticism.

Elizabeth Randolph - Author

Jul. 25 2023, Published 6:12 p.m. ET

There are some fast food restaurants where you must eat all the food in one sitting. Think McDonald’s french fries (if there’s a cold batch, throw mine away) or Little Caesars pizza. But Panda Express is one fast food joint you can actually enjoy the day after ordering it.

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The Chinese-American mall staple has numerous locations nationwide. One TikTok user visited her local Panda for a bite to eat and ended up with an order she didn’t want. When she confronted the staff about the mix-up, she discovered just how determined the employees were to get orders out ASAP.

Keep reading for the unsanitary tale.

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A Panda Express customer claimed an employee planned to serve her returned food.

Every frequent fast-food flyer knows that going through the drive-thru or ordering online can be an unpredictable experience. While restaurants mostly get an order right, most of us have endured getting the wrong order delivered to our car windows.

In July 2023, TikToker Julie Lunar (@julie_lunar) shared that she dealt with a flubbed Panda Express order. During her 1:35 video, Julie ordered chow mein and super greens from the establishment. However, when she checked her bag, she noticed the employees got her order wrong and gave her fried rice and super greens instead.

As Julie stated in her TikTok, Panda Express getting her online order wrong was “no big deal.” Since she was still in the parking lot when she checked the bag, Julie went inside to get the chow mein she expected.

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When she entered the restaurant, Julie said she told the person in the front of the house that she was supposed to have chow mein, but her order got mixed up. The employee agreed to fix Julie’s order before putting her wrong order back in the buffet of chow mein and super greens in front of the building for all customers to choose from.

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While Julie watched the Panda Express worker put the rice and super greens back in with the cooked, presumably untouched food, she said the disgust on her face was impossible to mask. She said that although she’s not a “confrontational person,” she couldn’t hide the “horrified” look on her face as she watched the staff break all kinds of health violation codes.

“He dumped the rice back in with all the other rice,” Julie said.“I am all for not wasting food, but that has to violate some food safety violations,” “Like, I had brought the order from the restaurant into my car.”

“For all they knew, I could have spit in the food, sneeze in the food,” she added. “They just took it back and dumped it with all the other food.”

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Panda Express responded to Julie’s TikTok after it received backlash online.

Under Julie’s TikTok,, many fellow TikTokers expressed disgust at the employee’s actions. Many commenters who worked at Panda Express and other food service jobs slammed Julie’s location and said the worker’s move didn’t reflect their training.

“Wait, what?” a Panda employee said in response to Julie’s video. “In my Panda Express, we were trained never to put the food back in the pan if it had already been taken from the counter.”

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However, others who worked at the restaurant said the employee may have been partially wrong.

“I used to work at Panda, and I was trained if we made a mistake like this to just dump it back in with the food on the table,” another user claimed. "However, only if we didn't hand it out, and we had to ask the customer if they were OK with us adding the correct food in the same spot as the stuff we just took out of the plate.”

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Several other TikTokers claimed they experienced the same problem as Julie at various Panda Express locations. One even asked Julie if she spoke to a manager about the food safety issue, and she claimed the manager was next to the employee and didn’t seem to mind what they did in front of them.

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After multiple days of online backlash, which included commenters tagging Panda Express directly about the issue, the restaurant released a statement to Distractify after we reached out for comment. The company promised to investigate Julie’s complaint and handle the situation accordingly.

“The health and safety of our guests is always our top priority, and we take our commitment to the highest standards of food safety within our restaurants very seriously. The experience the Guest described is not our company’s standard practice, and we have been in contact with the Guest to resolve this situation.”

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