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Woman who drank toxic tea released from hospital

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    Police say a woman was in extremely critical condition after drinking sweet tea laced with an industrial cleaning chemical at Dickey's Barbecue Pit.

SALT LAKE CITY >> A Utah woman who nearly died after unknowingly drinking iced tea mixed with chemicals has been released from a Salt Lake City hospital.

Jan Harding, 67, was released Saturday morning, University of Utah Health Care spokeswoman Marissa Villasenor said Sunday.

Harding is now recovering at home after making progress during the last week that is “nothing short of miraculous,” family attorney Paxton Guymon said in an email Sunday.

Harding must still undergo tests and procedures to determine any long-term complications, Guymon said. “The family sincerely appreciates all of the support and prayers from everyone who has followed her story,” he said.

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.

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

On Thursday, her husband, Jim Harding, told reporters that his wife has had nightmares about the moment that made her say, “I think I drank acid.”

Jim Harding, 66, said he’s focused on his wife’s recovery and not criminal charges or lawsuits.

Salt Lake County prosecutors are reviewing a police investigation and have not announced if charges will be filed.

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.

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

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

After investigating, Guyman said last week that had 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.

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