Woman who drank toxic tea hopes restaurants reform

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Woman who drank toxic tea hopes restaurants reform
FILE - This Aug. 14, 2014, file photo, shows a sign at Dickey's Barbecue Pit in South Jordan, Utah. As prosecutors mull whether charges are warranted against employees at the Utah restaurant where a woman nearly died after unknowingly drinking toxic tea, the woman's husband and son are set to talk publicly Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, about her recovery. Authorities say a worker unintentionally put a chemical cleaning compound containing lye in a sugar bag last month. The substance ended up in Harding's glass of iced tea after an employee mixed it into a beverage dispenser. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 14, 2014, file photo, attorney Paxton Guymon holds a photograph of Jim and Jan Harding during a news conference in Salt Lake City. Jan Harding, 67, who nearly died after unknowingly drinking iced tea mixed with chemicals has been released from a Salt Lake City hospital. Harding has been slowly improving since Aug. 10, when she drank a single sip of sweetened iced tea at Dickey's Barbecue in South Jordan, a Salt Lake City suburb. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Attorney Paxton Guymon holds a photograph of Jim and Jan Harding following a news conference Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, in Salt Lake City. Jan Harding, 67, drank sweet tea containing a toxic cleaning chemical, severely burning her mouth and throat at a Utah restaurant after an employee mistook the substance for sugar and mixed it into a dispenser. Harding is listed in good condition at a Salt Lake City hospital as she continues to improve. Authorities say a worker at Dickey's Barbecue in South Jordan unintentionally put the chemical cleaning compound in a sugar bag last month. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
FILE - This Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, file photo, shows a sign displayed in the window of Dickey's Barbecue Pit in South Jordan, Utah. As prosecutors mull whether charges are warranted against employees at the Utah restaurant where a woman nearly died after unknowingly drinking toxic tea, the woman's husband and son are set to talk publicly Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, about her recovery. Authorities say a worker unintentionally put a chemical cleaning compound containing lye in a sugar bag last month. The substance ended up in Harding's glass of iced tea after an employee mixed it into a beverage dispenser. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Jim Harding speaks about his wife, who drank sweet tea containing a toxic cleaning chemical, severely burning her mouth and throat at a Utah restaurant after an employee mistook the substance for sugar and mixed it into a dispenser during a news conference Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, in Salt Lake City. Jan Harding, 67, is listed in good condition at a Salt Lake City hospital as she continues to improve. Authorities say a worker at Dickey's Barbecue in South Jordan unintentionally put the chemical cleaning compound in a sugar bag last month. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Dickey's Barbecue Pit is shown Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014, in South Jordan, Utah. Police say a woman was in extremely critical condition after drinking sweet tea laced with an industrial cleaning chemical at Dickey's Barbecue Pit. South Jordan Police Cpl. Sam Winkler says the 67-year-old woman was eating at Dickey's Barbecue Pit on Sunday when she poured herself a glass of tea from the beverage bar. Winkler says the woman took a sip and her mouth started burning. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A Utah woman who nearly died after unknowingly drinking iced tea mixed with chemicals spoke publicly for the first time on Friday, describing the incident that she hopes is a wake-up call for restaurants.

"It was a fire that was just, it was just all-consuming in my mouth," Jan Harding, 67, told reporters Friday afternoon.

Harding spent almost two weeks in a Salt Lake City hospital after drinking a single sip of sweetened iced tea on Aug. 10 at Dickey's Barbecue in South Jordan, a Salt Lake City suburb.

An industrial cleaning solution mixed into the tea caused deep, ulcerated burns in Harding's esophagus.

She spit out the tea and tried to rinse her mouth with water as she was taken to a hospital, but Harding said the rinsing and spitting hurt too bad.

Authorities have said a restaurant employee unintentionally put the heavy-duty cleaner lye in a sugar bag, and another worker mistakenly mixed it into the iced-tea dispenser. Lye, which looks like sugar, is an odorless chemical used for degreasing deep fryers.

Harding was the first one to drink from the chemically laced batch of tea, and no one else was harmed.

Salt Lake County prosecutors are reviewing a police investigation and have not announced if charges will be filed. A decision could come next week, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said.

Harding's family has not said whether it will file a lawsuit.

Woman Released from Hospital After Drinking 'Toxic Tea'

Her husband, Jim Harding, said they are focusing on her recovery.

The Dallas-based Dickey's Barbecue Restaurants Inc. has said the incident was isolated and unprecedented in the chain's 73-year history.

Harding's attorney Paxton Guymon said he's discovered another lye incident at the South Jordan restaurant in July. An employee at the South Jordan restaurant burned herself when she stuck her finger in a sugar container and licked it to test for the chemical cleaner, he said.

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

Dickey's Barbecue Restaurants has not commented on the new allegations.

Jan Harding said Friday that doctors say she must undergo additional tests before they can determine what long-term complications she could face.

"I don't feel quite myself yet. I still have, you know, some difficulties inside," she said gesturing to her throat.

Harding said she hopes the incident forces restaurants to change how they train employees and store and label chemicals, perhaps by adding colored dye to dangerous chemicals.

Harding said she's not mad at the people in the restaurant, but it will be a while before she goes out to eat again.

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