Sweet tea sickens when mixed with chemicals

 I don’t golf anymore because I sorta like my wife.

But for years Chapman was called Sweat Tea.

Not by me, but government types, who have this predilection to come up with nicknames for everyone, like it matters.

The name came from a golf trip to Virginia about 10 years ago. Being a northerner and not yet fluent in Virginiaisms, Chapman was sorta baffled when a server at Golden Corral – an annual meal imposed by the golf trip organizer – asked if he wanted his tea sweet or unsweet.

Chapman said, what?

This went on for a few minutes until he finally figured out the difference between sweet tea and unsweetened ice tea. He only knew about Red Rose.

Better than the patrons at a Dallas-area restaurant who in April 2010, suffered acute-onset dizziness and fainting resulting from low blood pressure within minutes of consuming food from the restaurant and were consistent with chemical poisoning.

Toxicologic and epidemiologic investigations were begun to determine the cause of the poisonings and identify potentially exposed persons. This report summarizes the results of those investigations, including a case-control study that identified iced tea as the likely contaminated food or drink (odds ratio [OR] = 65; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.4–3,292). Approximately 5 months after the incident, extensive laboratory testing identified sodium azide (NaN3) and hydrazoic acid (formed when sodium azide contacts water) as the toxic agents in the iced tea. All five ill restaurant patrons recovered from their symptoms. For rapid-onset foodborne illnesses, chemical poisons should be considered as a potential cause, regardless of negative initial toxicologic screening tests. Although unusual chemicals can be challenging to detect, a multidisciplinary approach involving public health officials and forensic and medical toxicologists can lead to appropriate testing. In the absence of an identified agent, epidemiologic tools are valuable for active case-finding and confirming suspected contaminated food vehicles.

The complete sweet tea report is available at

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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of barfblog.com, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, barfblog.com retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 dpowell29@gmail.com 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time