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Pennsylvania Kids Suffer From Severe Mouth And Throat Burns After Drinking Apple Juice At Buffet Restaurant

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Two kids suffered from burn-type injuries in their mouth and throat after drinking tainted apple juice at a Chinese restaurant in Pennsylvania that serves all-you-can-eat buffet.

Richard Zaragoza, Jr. and his 4-year-old half-sister, Ginaya Mendoza, were brought to the hospital after drinking the tainted juice on Friday, March 3. They are still hospitalized but in fair condition days after their visit to the Star Buffet and Grill, where they and their family were supposed to celebrate Richard's 10th birthday.

Lt. Robin Weaver of the East Lampeter Township Police said that the children experienced blistering and were vomiting. Besides them, another child also suffered from stomach discomforts. An adult who tasted the beverage but did not drink it also needed treatment at the hospital.

Apple Juice Served In Cups

The siblings reportedly ordered the apple juice, which was brought by the server in cups. It was not the first time that members of the family visited and ate at the restaurant. They have been going to this buffet for years. The sibling's father, Richard Zaragoza, however, noted that their experience with the restaurant was different on the day of the incident.

Zaragoza said that when servers at the restaurant bring juice to them, they would typically bring a styrofoam cup with ice and the drink, which could later be opened and poured when wanted. This time, the server brought the juice already made.

"As soon as they took a sip of it, they were throwing up and there was blood you know, and all that stuff," Zaragoza said, relating what happened after his children drank the juice.

The children were rushed to Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

Concerns For Richard Jr.

Zaragosa was particularly concerned of his son because he has existing conditions. The boy has diabetes and cystic fibrosis, a hereditary condition that causes damage to the digestive system, lungs, and other organs in the body.

The condition affects the cells of the body that produce sweat, mucus, and digestive juices, so sufferers tend to have sticky and thick secretions. Instead of serving as a lubricant, secretions of people with cystic fibrosis plug up their ducts, tubes, and passageways particularly in the pancreas and lungs.

Foul Play?

Star Buffet manager Steve Weng said that he did not know how the incident happened and regrets that it occurred. He said that the juice was from a half-gallon that was bought at a local grocery store. The apple juice in question was recovered and is currently being tested.

Zaragoza said that a test from the Hershey Medical Center showed that methanol, a toxic alcohol used as a pesticide, solvent, and alternative fuel source in industries, was one of the substances found in the apple juice.

An inspector from the state Agriculture Department who was sent to the restaurant on Monday, March 6, did not find imminent risk to public health and safety, and the buffet restaurant remains open.

Authorities are getting help from translators to interview employees at the restaurant who only speak Chinese or Spanish. Weaver said that it is still too early to tell if there is foul play involved in the incident.

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