According to ABC News on Thursday, a woman is in critical condition after taking just one sip of ice tea at a Utah restaurant. Jan Harding and her husband were having a relaxing lunch with friends after church on Sunday at a Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in South Jordan, Utah when she fixed herself sweet tea from a self-serve beverage station.
The 67-year-old grandmother took only one sip of tea and her mouth and throat began to burn. She started gagging and coughing. Her husband asked what was wrong. She told her husband of 47 years, "I think I just drank acid.”
Mrs. Harding wasn't wrong. The tea she had just drunk had more acid in it than tea. The tea contained 67 percent of a heavily toxic industrial cleaner. The cleaner, made up of sodium hydroxide, or lye, is known to cause severe burns to the mouth, throat and stomach if swallowed.
Police are investigating by interviewing employees who worked that day and days leading up to the tragedy. They have determined Harding is the only victim. It appears she was the first to drink the tea that day, and restaurant employees dumped it out after she was burned. Investigators and the restaurant manager have told the Hardings that a worker mistook the cleaning product for sugar and accidentally mixed large quantities of it into the iced-tea dispenser.
Fox News said the tea was laced with a highly toxic industrial cleaning solution meant for cleaning grease off of deep fryers. It contained the odorless chemical lye, the active ingredient in drain cleaners like Drano. The chemical is common in restaurants. It is so strong that it starts dissolving the insides immediately after someone swallows it.
The chemical, also known as sodium hydroxide, comes in both liquid and powder form. The one the worker added to the tea was a powder one with the similar appearance as sugar.
Barbara Insley Crouch, the executive director of Utah’s Poison Control Center, said Harding’s suffering is profound. She said the chemical could burn the tissues in your mouth and down into your esophagus and down into your stomach. Doctors are trying to determine if it caused any tears in Harding's esophagus or stomach.
Despite the situation, Health Department officials let the restaurant remain open for business. No one else was hurt because Harding was the only one who had tea from a fresh batch of iced tea that had just been made.
It is reported that the health department is awaiting results of the criminal investigation to determine if it should issue any violations. It's unlikely the restaurant would be fined or shut down.
Harding still is in a Salt Lake City hospital's burn unit, unable to talk and fighting for her life with no improvement since her admittance.