Police: No evidence juice caused kids to get sick at restaurant

LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) – After receiving preliminary test results from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, investigators say there is no evidence that apple juice alone made children sick at a Lancaster County restaurant.

The East Lampeter Township Police Department says further, more definite testing will be needed to determine exactly what caused children to become ill after they dined at the Star Buffet.

East Lampeter Township said its building and zoning department ordered the Star Buffet to close Wednesday because of 23 building code violations. Employees were seen clearing out the building in the afternoon.

The state Department of Agriculture inspected the restaurant Monday and found it was out of compliance with multiple violations, but no imminent health hazards. As part of the ongoing investigation, a box of crystal lye was secured for lab tests, the inspector wrote in the report.

Three opened bottles of crystal lye were found in a storage area. Another bottle was stored beneath the sushi buffet table, a code violation, the inspector wrote.

Crystal lye, a cleaner and drain opener, can cause abdominal pains, burns of the mouth and throat, and vomiting if swallowed, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Township police said a 4-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy had burns to their mouths and throats and both vomited after drinking the juice Friday evening.

A 6-year-old boy had stomach discomfort, and a man who was with the three children had burns in his mouth after tasting the juice, police said.

The two children with more severe reactions were flown to Penn State Hershey Medical Center. They were listed in fair condition Monday. The third child and the adult were released after treatment at Lancaster General Hospital.

Investigators said the juice was served in polystyrene cups and the reactions were confined to one group of patrons. No other customers reported any reactions or discomfort.

There is no evidence that the public is at any further risk of a similar incident at this time, according to police.

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