Family’s attorney speaks as woman who drank tainted tea remains in critical condition

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — She drank one sip of sweet tea and was in critical condition just hours later.

According to police, Jan Harding, 67, ordered the drink from a Dickey’s Barbecue in South Jordan. It turned out to be mixed with a cleaning supply that burned her mouth and throat.

Harding has been in critical condition in the University of Utah Hospital’s burn unit since Sunday.

“Her family is just praying desperately that she’ll survive this,” said Paxton Guymon, her attorney.

Guymon was hired to represent the family on Monday. According to him, they’ve been in a state of shock in the days since Harding fell ill.

“It’s amazing that she could go in, just looking for a nice iced tea and be hospitalized by the end of the day, fighting for her life,” he said.

The sweet tea Harding purchased turned out to be mixed with a toxic cleaning chemical, according to police, that instantly burned through her throat and mouth.

“She was the first person of the day to drink iced tea,” he said. “She turned to her husband and said, ‘I think I just drank acid.’”

The chemical is called the Clean Force Fryer Cleaner, a hazardous white powder mixture that Guymon said an employee confused with sugar and poured into the tea.

“Why weren’t there more safeguards to keep the deadly chemical compound away from the food prep area, away from the people who would have access to it?” said Guymon. “It seems to me that a substance like that should be kept under lock and guard.”

Harding’s family is still waiting for those answers, as they wait to see if she will ever recover.

“They’re frustrated that something like this could happen,” said Guymon. “If she dies, it will be a tremendous, tragic loss for the family.”

Related story:
Experts discuss dangers of chemical that left woman in critical condition

11 comments

  • Concerned Citizen

    This is absolutely tragic and was totally preventable. There are a multitude of safeguards that food-service establishments put into place to keep cleaning chemicals away from food, and in this instance I would have to say that there would have to be a huge lack of general oversight on the part of the management of this restaurant as well as the employees.

    With a restaurant chain as established as Dickey’s, I would presume that there is a cleaning system in place with appropriate labeling and storage facilities.

    This is just carelessness, pure and simple – or maliciousness.

    I mean, I read in another article that this was lye? It has a smell. How could you not tell the difference between that and sugar?

    • Karen Stogner

      I agree.

      Unfortunately it is also very possible the employee did not know how to read. Even worse she may not have even checked to make sure the bag said it was sugar. This type of sloppy work should not be tolerated or excused.

  • Josh Singer-Lutman

    The restaurant manager should be the higher athority that he is entitled to and take action against the idiotic employee that did this and drug test that person..
    My prayers and blessings go out to the family. I don’t know them but I hope she pulls thru this.
    I had something like this happen to me awhile ago. I was at a party in bountiful and someone spiked my drink with radiator fluid and I had to drive myself all f***”d up to the LDS hospital where I almost lost my life. Thank God I pulled thru.
    But it was no fun what they had to do to me to clean out my system..

  • Rob

    Very concerned with the fast food companies and their safety policies. Young workers most of whom are experiencing their first job. They are working around fryers and dangerous chemicals. More safety education and monitoring needs to take place in these places. My heart goes out to the family and hope for a recovery. Who’s at fault.??… The owner, the management, and the employee. I hope this is investigated thoroughly and this news is spread to others to prevent something like this happening to others

  • Da man

    yes this is a horrible incident and im not trying to make light of this families situation, but I haven’t called it sickeys bbq all this time for nothin

  • Alan

    Most fast food restaurants have a large population of non or very little English speaking employees , with this said and with out discriminating different races. I hope the employee was able to read and understand the English language and or wasn’t the case. But if it was the case maybe restaurants should not hire employees who’s first language is preferred to be Spanish….

  • Scott Pace

    It’s a sad tragic ordeal I feel sorry for the family. But why would the restaurant store a chemical next to sugar, That alone is a violation of health codes if you ask me. Seems like the restaurant should be held liable. Cleaning supplies should be stored in a different area away from food.

  • Karrie

    I agree with you Alan! They need to know English better to work. But but unfortunatelyyou get evokes that hire people that can’t speak it well and things like this happen but the worker wasn’t Hispanic she was white. Maybe couldn’t read herself. Why was the cleaning product in the foods prep area in the first place

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