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Children Poisoned By Apple Juice At Restaurant

Two sibling children were poisoned by apple juice at a restaurant on March 3.

Richie Zaragoza, 10, and his half-sister, Ginaya Mendoza, 4, became violently ill after drinking juice at the Star Buffet & Grill in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, reports the Daily Mail. They were rushed to the hospital and spent a night in the intensive care unit.

Richie's mother, Virginia Davis, 32, told Lancaster Online: "When he drank the apple juice he'd been served he just started screaming, 'It burns, it burns.'"

Ginaya reportedly vomited and said her stomach hurt.

At first, Davis thought the children were merely sick, but when Richie started coughing up blood, she realized that the drink had been contaminated.

Steve Weng, the restaurant's manager, said the apple juice was sourced from a local supermarket, and that he had no idea how it got tainted.

East Lampeter Township police commissioned tests on the apple juice, but the full results are not known yet. However, according to Richie's father, Richard Zaragoza, a test from the Hershey Medical Center revealed that methanol was at least one of the substances present in the juice.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, methanol is a "toxic alcohol that is used industrially as a solvent, pesticide, and alternative fuel source," but is also found in fresh fruits and vegetables, fruit juices, fermented beverages and diet soft drinks with aspartame. "Most methanol poisonings occur as a result of drinking beverages contaminated with methanol or from drinking methanol-containing products," according the CDC.

As of March 5, Richie and Ginaya were described by a hospital spokesman as being in "critical but stable condition."

Richie, who also suffers from cystic fibrosis and diabetes, is still sedated with an intubation device, which could be removed as early as March 6, according to his father. He will not be able to eat food for a week, according to doctors. Ginaya is reportedly doing better and no longer sedated.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends reporting all instances of food poisoning to the local health department.

"When two or more people get the same illness from the same contaminated food or drink, the event is called a foodborne outbreak," the agency explains. "Reporting illnesses to your local health department helps them identify potential outbreaks of foodborne disease. Public health officials investigate outbreaks to control them, so more people do not get sick in the outbreak, and to learn how to prevent similar outbreaks from happening in the future."

Sources: Daily Mail, Lancaster Online, US Department of Health and Human Services / Photo credit: Facebook via Daily Mail

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