In 2019, one throwaway news story about Mike Puru and a bad chicken burger captured our attention. Today, we finally uncover the truth.
There’s a particular toilet near the Newshub studio that gives Mike Puru flashbacks to one of the darkest broadcasts of his career. He remembers writhing around on the floor of said toilet, suit jacket crumpled in the corner, body drenched in sweat. He remembers alternating between uncontrollable vomiting and crapping. He remembers the panic of having mere minutes before he had to present the weather, live on television.
“I was ready to call an ambulance, that’s how sick I was,” he says. “I thought I was going to die.”
It was the summer of 2019, in the liminal space between Christmas and New Year, and Puru was juggling weather shifts on Newshub with a daily talkback slot on RadioLIVE. He may not have died in the toilet cubicle that day, but he did, in his own words, “look awful” for the three minutes that he was on screen. “I was very clammy, a little bit breathless,” he says. “I think that point I just wanted to get it out, because you can imagine what it’s like standing there on live TV thinking ‘don’t fart’.”
Once he recovered from the bout of food poisoning, the saga soon became fodder for his radio show. “I had to fill some time waiting for a caller and I talked about what had happened,” he recalls. “That’s what they say at broadcasting school – just draw on your life experiences – so I thought well that was a life experience, so I started talking about it and lo and behold it ended up on a website and then became news.”
‘Mike Puru shares ‘gross’ McDonald’s holiday horror story’ was published on Newshub on January 7, 2019. The article details the genesis of the food poisoning, describing a “disastrous McChicken experience” that led to the broadcaster losing four kilograms. It recounts how, after complaining about the long wait times at McDonald’s on New Year’s Day, a friend of Puru’s gifted him an unwanted burger which he immediately put in his backpack and forgot about on “a very hot day.” He later reheated it, and paid the price for the decision from “both ends”.
In a cruel twist of algorithmic fate, the story is followed with this ad:
This story immediately captured the attention of The Real Pod, The Spinoff’s weekly reality television podcast. It raised a lot of questions: Who has a spare burger? Why did Puru put it in his backpack? Why did an adult man think it would then be OK to eat? To commemorate the three year, three month and 13 day anniversary of the story breaking, Puru joined us in The Real Pod studio this week to finally reveal the truth.
The first bombshell of many was that the offending burger was not, in fact, a McChicken as reported. “I think it was from either a Burger Fuel or a Burger Wisconsin,” he said. “But honestly, there’s nothing wrong with those burger places at all because it is entirely my fault.” Puru estimated he had “rocked around” with the mid-range chicken burger in his backpack for “probably a day or two” before consumption.
“You can imagine my surprise when I was hungry and I opened my backpack and there was a chicken burger,” he recalled. “I thought ‘if I just microwave the hell out of it, it will be fine’.”
As we now know, it was not fine. “I ate it and then I paid the price,” Puru lamented, referring to his “risky three minutes of broadcasting” while doing the weather. He admitted his return to chicken has been slow, given the psychological scarring of the saga. “I had little nibbles over those few days afterwards but it didn’t agree with me and I was really paranoid that I was going to be off chicken for the rest of my life,” said the certified chicken-head.
Years on, Puru remains vigilant when it comes to chicken. “I always double-check the time frame and how meat is stored,” he said. “If it’s been in the fridge for longer than a day or two, that’s it. I won’t touch it. But I still love chicken to this day… I am chicken everything.” He recently became concerned after storing some chicken in the lower compartment of his fridge that “didn’t smell quite right” on removal.
Not only did Puru throw the dodgy chicken out, but he bought a replacement fridge – he was covering the weather on Newshub for the Easter break, and didn’t want any slip-ups. “In broadcasting, sometimes if you are away and someone fills in, you know, changes can happen,” he explained. “I never let my guard down.”