Woman Burns Mouth On Sweet Tea Filled With Industrial Cleaning Chemicals At Restaurant

There’s nothing quite like taking a big sip of a nice cold drink when you’re thirsty — unless that beverage is filled with chemical cleaners used to degrease restaurant deep fryers. Officials say a 67-year-old woman burned her mouth when she drank from a cup of sweet tea at a restaurant that was laced with lye.

According to the Associated Press, the woman took one sip from her drink at a Utah restaurant, after getting it from a self-serve station, and spit it out.

“I think I just drank acid,” she told her husband.

She had, police say, as the drink contained a highly toxic cleaning solution, similar to what’s in drain cleaners and strong enough to clean a deep fryer. She ended up in the hospital’s burn unit in critical condition, and has been there since the incident on Sunday.

Her lawyer says she’s fighting for her life right now, and unable to talk.

The restaurant’s manager and investigators say that a worker accidentally poured in the chemical thinking it was sugar, dumping a large amount of it into the iced-tea dispenser. No one else drank the chemical tea, as a worker tossed the rest after the woman burned her mouth.

“It’s disturbing that this kind of toxic, poisonous material would be in the food-prep area and somehow find its way into the iced tea vat,” the woman’s lawyer said. “I don’t know how something like that can happen.”

Police are still investigating, but believe it was accidental, a police representative said. And the woman’s lawyer is waiting until that investigation is finished before deciding on any legal action.

The owner of the franchise location said he’s praying for the woman, and cooperating with officials.

Chemical-filled tea burns woman at Utah restaurant [Associated Press]

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  1. Xenotaku says:

    I would like to see the results of the Health Department investigation as well. I’ve worked in restaurants, and cleaning chemicals are required to a) be kept in a spot specifically for cleaning chemicals, and b) to be clearly labeled. Unless the worker didn’t bother reading the label of what he grabbed (which, again, should have been sitting amongst other cleaning chemicals that are clearly labeled), the chemical was not where it should have been. Even when it’s in use, it shouldn’t be sitting on a counter where it could be mistaken for a container of food (also, why would sugar be stored near the deep friers?).

  2. mrkake says:

    “Hey man, wouldn’t it be funny if I poured this acid into the tea and someone drank it????”

    No. No it wouldn’t.

    I don’t understand how this could have happened on accident unless the person 1) Has no brain 2) The chemical was stored in a container labeled ‘Sugar’

  3. webalias says:

    Here’s an idea: we require people who want to drive a car to have a driver’s license. To get one they have to study, learn some safety rules, and pass a test. We do this because people who don’t know the rules and get behind the wheel can kill other people. How about if we start to require everybody who has a job handling food to learn basic rules about safety — and pass a test — before they can get a job? Each year, food-borne illnesses sicken out 1 of 6 Americans, 28,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die, according to the CDC. Not all these cases involve restaurants, but most of us eat out at least once week. While tragedies like this one in Utah are rare, cases in which people are sickened from contaminated food or catch diseases (like hepatitis A) from infected restaurant workers are not so uncommon. Sure, many of those working in food service are teens. But if they can study and pass a test to be able to drive to work, is it asking too much for society to insist that they — and their managers — demonstrate a knowledge of basic safety rules before they are allowed to prepare or handle our food?

    • Xenotaku says:

      Uh, they do. It’s called a Food Handler’s Permit. You take a class (in person or online), then take a test, and pay $10, and they give you a card that says you’re certified to work with food. It lasts for 2 years, then you have to do it again. And I believe the online test is only for people renewing, not for first time cards.

      At least in Washington, you are required to have the card by 2 weeks into any food handling job, or they are not allowed to schedule you for shifts (I believe the 2-week leeway was because you used to have to do it in person).