Occasionally, the IPC gets a call regarding a family that was inadvertently ‘served’ a poison added to their food by a well-meaning home chef. Most of our case studies relate back to IPC’s core poison prevention messages and this one is no different. Today’s lesson is never store chemicals or cleaning products near food.
A case that we have seen more than once involves Pine-Sol tainted brownies. Everyone has made brownies from a box mix at some point because it is so quick and easy—the only thing you need to add to the mix is an egg or two and some vegetable oil. Vegetable oil, a yellowish substance, comes in a tall clear bottle. The bottle is often too big to fit in the overhead kitchen cabinets with the rest of the baking ingredients, so it is relegated to the bigger cabinet under the sink for storage. What other yellowish brown liquid comes in a tall, clear bottle and is ALSO stored under the sink?? Pine-sol of course. Just look how similar the bottles are; it is easy to see how someone reaching into a dark cabinet would grab the wrong bottle.
Another, more serious case also involved an under the sink swap. A home cook was preparing German potato salad for his family and reached under the sink for the bottle of vinegar that was kept there. Instead, he grabbed a bottle of wheel cleaner also regularly stored under the sink and added that to the salad. Only after the dish was tasted, did the family realize the mistake. Wheel cleaner can contain caustic chemicals. This family ended up taking a trip to the ER in lieu of dessert, but luckily everyone did just fine.
Our last case involves a teenager who ate a snack that was meant for a mouse. He was visiting his grandmother, who had a mouse problem in her home. She had previously mixed rat poison into a jar of peanut butter and would periodically place small scoops of the peanut butter around the house to combat the mouse problem (mice like peanut butter, right?). She stored the jar of doctored peanut butter in the kitchen. One day, the unsuspecting teenager came into the kitchen to make a snack while grandma was in another room. He had eaten several crackers with this peanut butter before his grandmother saw him and realized what happened. Luckily, it was one of the lesser toxic rat poisons and he did just fine as well. But it could have been worse.
Today’s message bears repeating—never store chemicals or cleaning products near food! Keep them out of the kitchen, and in a dedicated closet or cabinet away from the cook (keep it locked if you ever have kids in your home). Always call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222 if you believe that you or someone you know has been exposed to a potentially harmful substance.