Lawsuit filed in Richardson restaurant's tea poisoning

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by STEVE STOLER

WFAA

Posted on July 12, 2012 at 4:47 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 12 at 8:42 PM

RICHARDSON - North Texas Poison Control officials who investigated a chemical poisoning at a Richardson restaurant say they initially believed it was the result of cyanide.

In less than a five-hour period of time, five people were hospitalized in April of 2010 after drinking iced tea at the Potbelly restaurant at Central Expressway and Campbell Road.

The five customers had symptoms ranging from light-headedness, nausea and fainting. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the tea urn was poisoned with sodium azide - a tasteless, odorless chemical used in the manufacture of auto air bags and explosives. 

"There are not that many chemicals that can cause such a sudden collapse from a small amount,” said Dr. Paul Wax, a North Texas Poison Control toxicologist who was among the first to investigate. “So, our initial suspicion was cyanide.”

In a written statement a Potbelly spokesman said "upon learning the cause of the poisonings, they installed tamper resistant covers on their tea urns.”

Inside the Richardson Potbelly, WFAA found two padlocks fastening down the top of the tea urn.

Authorities still don't know how the sodium azide got in the tea container.  Three of the victims have filed lawsuits against the restaurant chain asking for damages. 

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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