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Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

Condition of woman who drank toxic tea worse than originally thought

By Pat Reavy, Deseret News

Published: Fri, Aug. 15 11:40 a.m. MDT

 Jan Harding, left, remained in critical condition Thursday afternoon, Aug. 14, 2014, after accidentally putting a highly toxic industrial cleaning chemical in her mouth while believing she was drinking tea at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in South Jordan. Also pictured is Harding's husband, Jim.

Jan Harding, left, remained in critical condition Thursday afternoon, Aug. 14, 2014, after accidentally putting a highly toxic industrial cleaning chemical in her mouth while believing she was drinking tea at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in South Jordan. Also pictured is Harding's husband, Jim.

(Family Photo)

SOUTH JORDAN — The attorney for a woman who suffered chemical burns at a restaurant while drinking what she thought was iced tea said Friday the woman's injuries are worse than originally thought.

Last weekend, 67-year-old Jan Harding was about to eat lunch at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, 683 W. South Jordan Parkway (10600 South), when she poured a glass of sweet iced tea from a drink dispenser. Immediately as she drank it, she felt a burning sensation in her mouth and tried to cough the drink up, said her attorney, Paxton Guymon.

An initial investigation into the incident revealed that either a store manager or an employee put six cups of a white powder substance into the iced tea mixer and stirred it up, apparently believing it was sugar, he said. Instead, the substance was actually a highly toxic industrial cleaning chemical used for cleaning fryers. The main chemical in the substance is sodium hydroxide.

Harding has been in the University Burn Center since the incident, heavily sedated with pain medications. Thursday afternoon, Guymon said doctors performed a scope to find out how extensive the damage was.

"They were hoping for a positive report," he said.

What they found instead were "deep, ulcerated burns covering the upper area of her esophagus. There are also severe burns throughout her mouth and throat," Guymon said.

"The news was very disappointing and disheartening for the family," he said.

While it was originally believed that Harding spat out or coughed up the toxic tea before swallowing any of it, Guymon said it's obvious from the latest doctor's report that some of the substance did go down her throat.

"The burns were deeper and more extensive than we had hoped. She remains in critical condition, and there are still a lot of things that could go wrong at this point," he said. "It's still touch and go."

The investigation by South Jordan police into how the restaurant could have mistaken the toxic cleaner for sugar resumed Friday.

Police said based on initial investigation, the tea mix-up was an accident. Still, the case will be turned over to the district attorney's office once the investigation is completed to determine if any criminal charges should be filed.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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1. Tekakaromatagi
Dammam, Saudi Arabia,
Aug. 15, 2014

That is terrible. I hope she recovers.

If you deal with chemicals you get paranoid about mixing chemicals and food. But a restaurant does not think of themselves as a chemical lab. Right now, all over the place smart restaurants are asking themselves, "So where are we putting our cleaners, etc? And how are we labeling and training so that our staff don't make that sort of a mistake?"

2. Sneaky Jimmy
Bay Area, CA,
Aug. 15, 2014

Perhaps reading English should be a prerequisite for employment.

3. Shawnm750
West Jordan, UT,
Aug. 15, 2014

@Sneaky Jimmy - Perhaps tolerance should be a prerequisite for commenting on a public comment board...

You have no idea whether the employee who did it speaks English as their first language or not. We don't know enough of the specifics to make a judgement call so maybe we should avoid making snap judgments... I've been to that restaurant and most of the crew that I saw working there were Caucasians.

4. the greater truth
Bountiful, UT,
Aug. 15, 2014

@Shawnm750

Tolerance has nothing to do with it.

Just because someone is Caucasian does not mean they can read, or read english.

5. davidutefan
Evanston, WY,
Aug. 15, 2014

besides, as a food manager with 20 years experience, I can assure you that all chemicals are labeled in more than one language