Woman hospitalized after drinking poisoned sweet tea - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Woman hospitalized after drinking poisoned sweet tea

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Jan Harding (left) remains hospitalized after drinking poisoned sweet tea. (Source: KTVX) Jan Harding (left) remains hospitalized after drinking poisoned sweet tea. (Source: KTVX)
A Dickey's employee accidentally mixed industrial cleaner into the sweet tea, mistaking it for sugar. (Source: CNN) A Dickey's employee accidentally mixed industrial cleaner into the sweet tea, mistaking it for sugar. (Source: CNN)

SOUTH JORDAN, UT (KTVX/CNN) – A Utah woman is hospitalized after drinking sweet tea accidentally mixed with industrial cleaner.

Jan Harding knew right away, when she took a sip of her sweet tea, that something wasn't right.

"Jan Harding went to the iced tea dispenser and filled it up and she took a sip and immediately coughed it out and spat it out. Her first words to her husband, she turned to him and said 'I think I just drank acid,'" attorney Paxton R. Guymon said.

It’s believed large quantities of a product known as “Clean Force Fryer Cleaner” was mixed into the sweet tea dispenser at a Utah Dickey’s restaurant.

"By the accounts that we've heard so far either the store manager or the employee put 6 cups of this white powder substance into the iced tea mixer and stirred it up thinking that perhaps that was sugar," Guymon said.

The cleaning product is used as a degreaser to clean deep fryer restaurant equipment and is made up of 67 percent sodium hydroxide, also known as lye.

“That’s a very high concentration and if you were to swallow it, you can imagine that it would burn the tissues in your mouth and down in your esophagus and down into your stomach,” said Barbara Insley Crouch, executive director of the Utah Poison Control Center.

Harding is now being treated at the University of Utah Burn Center. She is intubated and cannot speak. Doctors are hoping it has not caused any perforations or tears of her esophagus or stomach.

"It's a very touch and go situation with Jan Harding and there are no guarantees that she is going to survive,” Guymon said.

The South Jordan Police Department and the Salt Lake County Health Department are investigating how this happened and why the industrial cleaner wasn't properly marked.

"It's common for the food industry to receive chemicals in bulk form, in a bulk package, then they transfer those to a spray bottle or smaller container so it's easier to use and easier to store. If they do that, the original bulk package must have the manufacturer’s label," said Jeffrey Oaks, with the Salt Lake County Health Department.

"Personally, it's shocking to me that a substance of this toxicity, that's this harmful, could be anywhere near the food preparation area,” Guymon said.

The franchise owner of the restaurant says they are fully cooperating with the police investigation.

Copyright 2014 KTVX via CNN. All rights reserved.