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Wendy's burgers don't measure up

That little old lady who used to shill for Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers wasn't the last person to ask "Where's the beef?"

On Wednesday, city Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Bennett Levin asked it of Wendy's itself, and, when the answer came up short, he seized 984 burgers for being just a small bite or two under their advertised weight _ and distributed them throughout the city to homeless shelters and an emergency foster-care center.

Inspectors from his department found that a sample of 24 uncooked hamburgers advertised as quarter-pounders actually weighed as much as a quarter of an ounce less.

They confiscated three crates of burgers from the Wendy's in the city's Olney section and assessed $98,400 in fines, at a rate of $100 a burger, in accordance with federal Department of Agriculture guidelines.

The patty inspections were a follow-up to an August raid in which underweight burgers were found at the restaurant.

"This is the first time that we've exercised the option of confiscating when we reinspect and find not only did they not correct the problem but the problem got worse," said Frank Antico, enforcement chief at the city Department of Licenses and Inspections.

Similar inspections earlier this year found underweight patties at McDonald's, among other places, said Licenses and Inspections Commissioner Levin. They also will be receiving follow-up inspections.

A spokesman for Wendy's said Wednesday's action was the first time any Wendy's had ever been so cited in the company's 25-year history. He vowed to fix the problem, noting that the missing meat amounted to "less than 10 one-thousandths of a pound." He attributed the short weights to "evaporation of moisture that occurs whenever you use the finest fresh ground beef."

Wednesday's action was no gimmick, Levin said, but is part of a campaign to check the claims of all the city's restaurants and supermarkets.