Woman Who Drank Lye-Laced Tea Sees Need for Change

Jan Harding spoke out for the first time since leaving a Utah hospital.

August 29, 2014, 5:34 PM
PHOTO: Attorney Paxton Guymon holds a photograph of Jim and Jan Harding during a news conference in Salt Lake City, Aug. 14, 2014.
Attorney Paxton Guymon holds a photograph of Jim and Jan Harding during a news conference in Salt Lake City, Aug. 14, 2014.
Rick Bowmer/AP Photo

— -- The Utah woman who was poisoned after being served tea that was laced with lye said today that dangerous chemicals like lye should have tell-tale colors or markers so they can't be mistaken for food ingredients.

Jan Harding, 67, was injured after an employee at Dickey's Barbeque Pit in South Jordan, Utah, unintentionally put the heavy-duty cleaner lye in a sugar bag, and another worker mistakenly mixed it into the iced tea dispenser.

One factor that helped save Harding was her use of a straw, so only a small sip went down her throat before she began feeling the effects.

"I don't know if anything reached my stomach because they said it would have killed me immediately," Harding said at a news conference today, six days after she was released from the hospital.

"They said the worst of the lesions had kind of healed somewhat and closed over and they were very surprised that that had taken place," Harding said.

She is scheduled to return to the hospital on Wednesday for another evaluation when doctors will look at how the scar tissue has formed which "might cause a problem with swallowing for the future."

She said that she hopes her story will lead to changes in the production of such dangerous chemicals, potentially leading to a change in color to differentiate it from other possible kitchen substances.

"If you buy a package of Cheer or Tide it’s got little green particles in it so it doesn't look like sugar or something else," Harding said.

An investigation into her Aug. 10 incident led to reports that it was not the first time that the restaurant had a problem with mislabeled chemicals.

Harding's attorney Paxton Guymon said that in July, an employee at the restaurant burned herself when she stuck her finger in a sugar container and licked it to test if it was the chemical cleaner.

The employee's tongue began bleeding and blistering, Guymon said. She quit on Aug. 9, the day before Harding was burned, according to the lawyer.

Harding's husband, Jim, who was with her at the restaurant on Aug. 10 when she swallowed the tainted drink, said that they have leaned heavily on their faith to get them through this ordeal.

"People talk about faith but we've had the opportunity to find out that our faith is real and that it matters and it works for us," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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