By MARK SCOLFORO
Two children suffered burn-type injuries to their mouths and throats after drinking what they believed to be apple juice at a Chinese buffet in Pennsylvania, and authorities said they are investigating the cause.
The children remained hospitalized in fair condition, three days after their visit to the Star Buffet and Grill outside Lancaster, about 70 miles west of Philadelphia.
A 10-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl suffered blistering and were vomiting, said Lt. Robin Weaver with the East Lampeter Township Police. He said a third child, who had stomach discomfort, and an adult who tasted the liquid but did not swallow it, also required hospital treatment.
“There apparently was some unknown caustic substance in the apple juice,” Weaver said.
Star Buffet manager Steve Weng said he did not know how it happened and regrets that it occurred. He said the juice was poured into disposable cups from a half-gallon bottle bought at a local grocery store.
The apple juice was recovered and was being tested.
A state Agriculture Department inspector sent to the restaurant on March 6 found no imminent risk to public health and safety, and the restaurant remained open, agency spokeswoman Shannon Powers said. She said the department was performing chemical tests as part of a multi-agency investigation.
Weaver said the county prosecutor’s office and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also are investigating.
Authorities were obtaining translators to interview restaurant employees who spoke only Spanish or Chinese.
It’s “too early to tell” if foul play was involved, Weaver said.
The 10-year-old boy’s father, Richard Zaragoza Sr., told LNP news in Lancaster they were at the restaurant to celebrate a birthday when the children became sick.
“I had to try to talk to him last night through his fingers,” Zaragoza told LNP. “I told him I loved him … and he squeezed my hand twice, so he was responsive.”