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LANCASTER, PA – Two children were rushed to the hospital with severe burning to the mouth and throat after drinking a caustic chemical at a Pennsylvania restaurant.

The incident happened on Friday while the family of Richie Zaragoza were celebrating the boy’s 10th birthday at the Star Buffet & Grill.

The apple juice that had been ordered for the boy and his 4-year-old half-sister, Ginaya Mendoza, were waiting on the table when the family got back from getting food at the buffet.

Ginaya took a sip from her cup and began throwing up and complaining her stomach hurt. The girl’s mother first thought her daughter had simply gotten sick, but then her son began screaming “it burns” and throwing up blood.

Both children were taken to Lancaster General Hospital with severe burns of the mouth and throat. They were then flown to Hershey Medical Center where they remained in intensive care Saturday afternoon.

Because Richie suffers from cystic fibrosis and diabetes, he has a gastronomy tube in his stomach and a port in his arm for IV medications and will be sedated for several days.

The liquid in the cups the children drank from is currently being tested. The manager of the restaurant says nothing like this has happened in the year he’s been there, and that the apple juice is purchased from a local grocery store.

Family members say the only thing odd about their service was that the children usually got individual juice containers in the past, but this time the juice came in foam cups.

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It wouldn’t be the first time we have reported on a restaurant customer getting a mouthful of liquid hell, but this one is odd because only some of the drinks at the table were contaminated.

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  • How does this happen? I would be looking for the person who gave these drinks to my kids. As someone who’s worked in the restaurant business for years I don’t understand how this accidentally happened.


    That is scary. I’ll be interested to see how this turns out.

  • sugarpie

    Very strange that 3 children at the table had apple juice and only 2 of them had bad juice.

  • jansav

    I hope this wasn’t the parents looking for quick cash by poisoning their children.

  • Jeania

    Yeah, there’s something fishy there. 3 kids drink, 2 are poisoned. Mom was still at the table; and the juice was in foam cups (I wonder if its even a brand of cups the restaurant purchase?). And if she had a baby there, could easily smuggle something in with the diaper bag.. but of course, that’d not of been examined at the time. -.- Something’s up on this one.

  • The “juice” was purchased from a discount grocery store. I guess no one ever bothered to check the expiration date. The juice expired 2 years ago.
    Sad. The kids are showing improvement at a local hospital but they are both still in very serious condition. :'(

  • McDanel_1771

    That’s no reason. Spoiled apple juice would not be caustic.

  • ObamaNazi

    Would you like a cup of go back to Mexico?

  • Vunderlak

    Not sure where you get your apples, but for me spoiled apple juice becomes spoiled apple juice, not freaking oven cleaner or something.

  • john smith

    Damn,I rarely eat,food that is not home cooked.Unless I am out of town,but this and all these other stories.Poisoning,spitting in drinks,and even more morbid stuff.

  • john smith

    I found old apple juice,in my pantry before.I opened it and it was flat and dull,but nothing caustic.Someone did something,plus I think people make beer and wine from rotten apples.

  • Reckless parents how this is possible., BE CAREFUL all the times.

  • McDanel_1771

    Turns out the third was treated and released, as was the stepfather who bled from the mouth after sampling the juice. Multiple articles at the source link make the situation clearer.


    I’ll bet the foam cups were used for something previously, like pouring powdered drain cleaner or something, into something else, back in the kitchen, and then returned to the stack.

  • Old Man Metal

    That was my first thought… does the restaurant use that type of Styrofoam cups? If they don’t then it’s likely an outside set-up of some sort.
    Whatever it was, the liquid was either really caustic or really acidic to do that much damage that quickly. Unfortunately, some restaurants use really, really aggressive cleaning products, and “honest mistakes” do sometimes happen.

  • sweetd


  • sweetd

    That could be true!

  • Christy Griggs

    My question is why did they order apple juice for a diabetic child when that’s one of the things dietitians say is an absolute no no for diabetics? Sounds fishy to me.


    Old apple juice does not turn into death juice …. :

  • GGMon

    Either this is a disgruntled employee issue or the family set the restaurant up. Please keep us posted

  • Old Man Metal

    Article from 3 days ago: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/pa-authorities-investigating-juice-left-kids-burns-article-1.2990570

    A few interesting bits:

    “Restaurant manager Steve Weng said his staff purchases bottled apple juice at a nearby supermarket and then pour it in the foam cups for their customers.” Answers my question about whether or not they serve juice using that type of Styrofoam cup.

    “A test performed at Hershey revealed that methanol was at least one of the substances in the juice, Richie’s father, Richard Zaragoza Sr., told Lancaster Online.” I’ve never seen methanol used in any restaurant cleaning products, and I worked in the specialty cleaning chemical industry for years, but it is certainly used in some cleaners that have no business in a restaurant. If it *was* from a restaurant cleaner, it would be from an el-cheapo degreaser, which would also be highly caustic… which would be consistent with the injuries and how quickly they occurred.

    “The East Lampeter Police and the Department of Agriculture have also been joined by the Lancaster Co. District Attorney’s Office as well as the US Food and Drug Administration.” Shit just got real.

  • Old Man Metal

    More recent details at http://www.ydr.com/story/news/watchdog/2017/03/10/star-buffet-tragedy-shows-flaws-pa-food-safety-system/98961846/

    “Star Buffet was deemed ‘out of compliance’ in nine of the past 15 health inspections, including the March 6 inspection that followed the chemical burning incident.

    Those inspections, dating back to 2015, showed a restaurant that regularly failed its annual inspections and often failed follow-up inspections. Three of its out-of-compliance inspections came after customer complaints.

    The March 6 inspection showed some ‘critical violations,’ including a bottle of crystal lye found inside a sushi buffet table. There were other instances of food and chemicals stored near one another. In an office, located inside the food preparation area, an inspector found three aerosol cans of insect killer and a bottle of liquid weed killer.”

    That’s how shit like this happens.

  • Pamela Garcia Daugette

    My son is diabetic and we calculate what he eats or says he will eat each meal and give him insulin accordingly. We just account for it. Also, if he is !ow, Apple juice is a godsend.

  • GGMon

    What the heck…

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