After accidentally being poisoned by tea in a Utah restaurant, a woman who suffered severe burns is improving. Jan Harding was in critical condition after eating at a Dickey’s BBQ Pitt in South Jordan, Utah. Unbeknownst to her, the sweet tea she filled her cup with at the self-serve station was laced with a lye-based cleaner. After filling her cup, Harding took a sip and immediately spat it out. “I think I just drank acid.” she told her husband, Jim Harding.
Apparently, the tea had been mixed with an industrial cleaning chemical called Clean Force Fryer Cleaner, a powder based product commonly used to degrease fryers. According to authorities, the cleaner had been accidentally mixed into a bag of sugar, which was put into the sweetened iced tea. An employee accidentally put six cups of the mixture into the tea, unexpectedly poisoning Harding.
Harding’s post church lunch with her husband had turned into a nightmare. After being driven to the hospital by her husband, she was flown to the University of Utah’s burn center in critical condition. An endoscopy revealed that Harding suffered severe burns in her ,outh, throat and upper esophagus.
Although Harding was in critical condition after being poisoned with from the lye, her condition seems to be improving. Paxton Guyman, Harding’s family attorney, has stated that the 67 year old woman has whispered and gotten out of bed. Her breathing tube has been removed and she was doing well without it, explained Guyman in an email last Saturday.
Guyman also stated that Harding had not been able to speak during the last few days. She also had trouble standing for a brief moment, without the help of nurses. Her husband and three children have been at her bedside praying for her recovery.
Lye is deadly. It would scorch the tissues in a person’s mouth and into his or her esophagus and down into their stomach, said Barbara Crouch, who is the chief director of Utah’s Poison Control, who also stated that Harding’s suffering was profound. The cleaner is made up of 67 percent sodium hydroxide, which is most commonly known as lye and burns the mouth, throat, esophagus and stomach immediately when swallowed. Lye is also known to be used to unclog drains.
According to a statement made last Friday by Dickey’s BBQ Restaurants Inc., it was an isolated incident and nothing like this has happened in the 73 years they have been in business. The statement also included that John Thompson, business franchise owner, was deeply saddened and is currently cooperating with authorities. Police have been interviewing employees and checking surveillance cameras.
Jim Harding expressed his horrible experience in an ABC News interview. “The terror in her eyes,” he said. “And I looked down and said ‘I love you’, and she just couldn’t even really talk at that point, she just mouthed ‘I love you too’.” Jim Harding just hopes that a lesson is learned from the event, “If the people in the restaurant industry could just be made aware of the potential danger, it’s worth it,” he stated.
Despite Harding’s incident, the Health Department allowed the restaurant to remain open. They are currently awaiting results from the crime investigation before they can determine wether they should issue any violations. Harding was the only person poisoned by the lye laced tea, and when alerted, employee staff immediately disposed of it. Her improvement shows a possibility that she just might survive the extreme burns she has suffered.
By Monica de Lartigue