Woman Orders Coffee, McDonald’s Serves Her Cleaning Fluid

August 1, 2018 Last Updated: August 1, 2018

A woman who ordered a latte at a McDonald’s in Lethbridge, Alberta, found herself with a cup of what turned out to be cleaning fluid.

Sarah Douglas stopped by the University Drive West McDonald’s in Lethbridge around 6:45 am, on Sunday, July 29, to pick up some refreshment before taking her son on the 100-mile drive to Medicine Hat, where his team would be competing in a baseball tournament.

After getting her drink she headed out and took a sip from her cup—and revolted.

“I immediately had to put my hazard lights on and pull over and spit it out and rinse my mouth out with … in the door of my vehicle I had some water,” Douglas told Lethbridge News Now.

“I opened up the lid of the coffee and out pours this pungent smell of chemical. It wasn’t a latte at all.”

Could be coffee, could be cleaning fluid. (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
(Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Nobody would want to drink some random, foul-smelling chemical, but for Douglas, her health was of special concern, because she is pregnant with her third child.

Doulga drove back to the McDonald’s and demanded to see the manager.

“I showed him the coffee and he had asked if I wanted a new one, and I said, ‘absolutely not, this is unacceptable,’” Doulglas recalled. “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.”     

Not the First Time

Douglas then said that the McDonald’s employee who brought Douglas her coffee, told her that there were two cleaning lines hooked up to the latte machine.

“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,” Douglas related. “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.”

Even more infuriating, McDonald’s told her than no one from the corporate office would be calling her about the incident until Aug. 1—three days after she had been served the chemically laced coffee at one of McDonald’s local stores.

McDonald’s Lethbridge and regional Brand Manager Alison Mackisey did contact Douglas by Monday morning, and provided the data sheets for the cleaning chemical Douglas had inadvertently ingested.

The Material Data Safety Sheet for the specific product says the product causes skin irritation and can cause serious eye damage.

“As a mother, I want to make sure I have a voice and that I’m being heard in terms of the safety of consumers, and how (alleged) negligence can affect people in such a drastic way,” she told Lethbridge News Now.

The owner of the McDonald’s restaurant that made the error—at least twice—responded to Douglas three days after serving her a cup of chemically laced coffee. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

McDonald’s Responds

On Aug. 1, McDonald’s issued an apology and an explanation of how the cleaning fluid got in the coffee.

McDonald’s External Communications Supervisor Corporate Relations Laura Munzar, sent Douglas this statement on behalf of franchise owner Brown:

“Since learning about the complaint, our team has been in very close contact with the guest and apologized to her. The health inspector also visited my restaurant and is not investigating further.

“McDonald’s is renowned for its food safety protocols and I am sorry that this happened in my restaurant here in Lethbridge.

“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.

“We have taken immediate action to review the proper cleaning procedures with the team and have put additional signage up as an added reminder.”

(Signed) Dan Brown, Franchisee, McDonald’s Lethbridge.

Fortunately Douglas only took a sip, so she and her unborn child are safe.