The latte tingled in her mouth.
That was the first clue Sarah Douglas had that the coffee she’d just ordered in a McDonald’s drive-through Sunday morning in southern Alberta, Canada, wasn’t right.
“I opened up the lid of the coffee and out pours this pungent smell of chemical,” Douglas told the CBC. “It wasn’t a latte at all.”
It didn’t look like a rich, creamy, foamy latte either, she told Canadian media — it was a watery brown color.
She pulled over onto the side of the road, spit it out and rinsed out her mouth with some water she had with her. Her first thought was of her unborn baby, she told Global News.
Douglas is eight months pregnant with her third child, Canadian media reported.
She turned around and went back to the McDonald’s in the city of Lethbridge where, she told the CBC, she asked to speak to a supervisor.
“I showed him the coffee and he had asked if I wanted a new one, and I said, ‘Absolutely not, this is unacceptable,’ ” she told the CBC. “I said I need to speak to someone higher-up, and he said he was the only supervisor on at the time, and he gave me his manager’s phone number.”
But another employee figured out what had happened, Douglas told Global News. “She actually went around the corner to look at the latte machine as well and noticed that there was two hoses coming out of the machine and going into this chemical,” she said.
The worker told her that two lines used to clean out the machine with cleaning solution were still hooked up to the latte machine, Douglas told Lethbridge News Now.
“The supervisor went and got the bottle that was hooked up to it and brought it over to the counter, and I took a picture of it so I knew what I was working with — what I had consumed so I could talk to 811 and poison control,” she told Lethbridge News Now.
“So, I took a picture of it and then another co-worker of his had also overheard what had been going on, and was a little bit upset at the situation and said that this had happened before. And she was a little mad that it was occurring again.”
In a statement to the media, Dan Brown, who owns the McDonald’s franchise where this happened, confirmed the mistake and said he’d contacted Douglas and apologized.
“What happened is that the machine was being cleaned as it is every morning. Unfortunately, the milk supply line was connected to the cleaning solution while this guest’s drink was made,” Brown’s statement said.
“McDonald’s is renowned for its food safety protocols and I am sorry that this happened in my restaurant here in Lethbridge.
“We have taken immediate action to review the proper cleaning procedures with the team and have put additional signage up as an added reminder.”
According to the CBC, Douglas contacted Alberta Health Services’ poison control and was told the chemical was an acid-based solution.
She has told news outlets she saw her family doctor to make sure she was OK — she is — and she feels lucky that she didn’t actually swallow the liquid.
She told Global News she hopes the incident reminds restaurants to properly train their staff.
“This needs to be more than a slap on the wrist,” she told Global News. “We need to take it more seriously when we are dealing with food handling, I mean, to put a lid on something that doesn’t look like a latte, that should be your first indication.”