Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Charge laid over RSA club poisoning

Nola Murphy (right) - with friend Heatha Anderson - thought she was drinking lemonade. In fact it was a highly toxic cleaning fluid. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Nola Murphy (right) - with friend Heatha Anderson - thought she was drinking lemonade. In fact it was a highly toxic cleaning fluid. Photo / Brett Phibbs

An Auckland RSA has been charged after a patron drank a toxic cleaning chemical stored in a soft-drink bottle.

Nola Murphy was celebrating her 73rd birthday at Avondale Returned Services Association in February when she was served the noxious beverage and drank it.

She had to be taken to hospital for treatment after drinking the fluid on February 23.

The Ministry for Primary Industries has now charged the RSA for selling a Sprite Zero bottle containing a substance that was unfit for human consumption, and for keeping a poisonous substance in a food container.

The cleaner who allegedly left the chemical at the bar, 57-year-old Julie Taipeti, has also been charged with breaching food safety regulations.

She allegedly filled the Sprite bottle with the lethal cleaning chemical benzalkonium chloride five weeks earlier and left on the bar. It was then put in a fridge by another staff member.

The RSA and the cleaner are due to appear in Waitakere District Court next month.

The Avondale RSA declined to comment today.

Mrs Murphy told the Herald in March that she went to the club for a birthday drink with a friend and ordered her "usual'', a Sprite Zero lemonade.

"I picked up the drink and drank it as normal. Suddenly, my head just exploded, everything just exploded,'' she said.

"All I could think of was getting to the toilet and throwing up. But I couldn't breathe.

The mistake prompted a nationwide review of RSA cleaning and bar procedures.

- APNZ

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