JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Police and state regulators are investigating a Jacksonville man's claim that a McDonald's employee slipped a bleach pod into his soft drink.
Lee Graves said he made the discovery Friday morning after visiting the McDonald's drive-thru on Blanding Boulevard near Wilson Boulevard. He was leaving the parking lot when the drink overflowed.
"It erupted like a darn volcano that's a science experiment that a kid would do," Graves told News4Jax. " ... I don't want Coke all over my truck, so I grab it and I take a couple of gulps to stop it from foaming."
His first impression? It tasted like chlorine. When he removed the lid, he said, he noticed a blob of blue goo floating near the surface. He brushed it off initially, thinking someone had spit in the drink.
It wasn't until an hour later that he dumped the rest of the soda out. At the bottom of the cup, he said, he found a square-shaped tablet that appeared to be a detergent pod.
"The whole day my stomach is starting to be in a little bit of a knot," he recalled. "I was feeling a little bit nauseous and decided I needed to go get checked out."
Graves said he underwent several tests and two rounds of blood work at UF Health Jacksonville, where physicians treated him for bleach and chlorine poisoning. A day later, he's still feeling nauseous.
"They told me the risk of bleach and chlorine poisoning comes after the fact," he said. "It creates a chemical imbalance in your gut. If you ingest enough of it, it can kill all the good bacteria in your gut."
While hospitalized, he posted several images of the tainted soda on Facebook Thursday, saying he had filed complaints with McDonald's, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the health department.
The post went viral, piling up more than 5,000 shares by Friday afternoon.
Graves suspects a drive-thru employee spiked his drink. He said he believes that because the employee had an attitude when he corrected her for giving him the wrong size drink.
"I wasn't rude to the girl," he said, "so I would like to think she was having a bad day and I was just an innocent victim, you know. Hopefully I wasn't an intended target."
The employee remembered handling Graves' order and acknowledged the mix-up over the drink size, police said. She denied being upset, saying the only time she touched the drink was to put the lid on.
Edgard Gerena, the restaurant's owner, confirmed in a statement provided to News4Jax that the incident is under investigation.
"Serving my customers safe, high quality food and beverages is a top priority for me. We take this claim very seriously and are investigating the matter," Gerena said.
In response to questions from News4Jax, the Florida Division of Hotels and Restaurants said it too is looking into this case to find out what happened.