Former employee: Restaurant knew about toxic mix that ended up in tea

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SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — A 67-year-old woman remains in critical condition after she suffered chemical burns due to tea tainted by a cleaning compound, and now a former employee at the restaurant that served the tea says the incident could have been avoided.

KSTU reports that Rebecca Rackley, who no longer works at Dickey’s, says she accidentally mixed the chemical sodium hydroxide into the sugar that was used for the tea.

Rackley said she was cleaning at the restaurant when she saw a sugar container was empty. A compound in a box underneath looked like it contained sugar and Rackley said when she asked a coworker about the box she was told it contained sugar. She combined the two, but it turned out that substance was the cleaning chemical rather than sugar.

Rackley tells KSTU the mistake was discovered later.

“My manager had stuck her finger in the sugar, and she licked it,” Rackley said. “And she had a chemical burn on her tongue that she had to go to the hospital that same day for.”

The incident Rackley describes took place on July 5, Rackley said — which is five weeks prior to the incident that injured the 67-year-old woman.

The woman left her job at Dickey’s before Harding was injured, so she said she doesn’t know how the mix wound up in the tea at that later date. She said she asked if she could throw the mixture away and was told no.