Ggm eatery that served dry ice instead of mouth freshener to 5 diners sealed - Hindustan Times

Ggm eatery that served dry ice instead of mouth freshener to 5 diners sealed

Mar 05, 2024 10:33 PM IST

Doctors said the diners suffered corrosive injuries that severely damaged oral cavity and food pipe. The suspect said the incident occurred due to staff negligence

The Gurugram Police on Tuesday arrested a 30-year-old manager of Laforestta Café at Sapphire Mall in Sector 90, where a waiter on Saturday mistakenly served dry ice instead of mouth freshener to five diners, resulting in their hospitalisation, officers aware of the matter said.

Laforestta Café at Sapphire Mall in Gurugram’s Sector 90. The restaurant opened three years ago but is now sealed. (Parveen Kumar/HT Photo)
Laforestta Café at Sapphire Mall in Gurugram’s Sector 90. The restaurant opened three years ago but is now sealed. (Parveen Kumar/HT Photo)

A police team that went to the restaurant on Tuesday found it locked. The food and supply department later sealed the establishment, which opened three years ago.

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According to doctors, the five diners suffered corrosive injuries that caused severe damage to the oral cavity and food pipe. Two of them were discharged from the hospital on Tuesday while three remain under medical care, police officers said.

The arrested suspect, Gagandeep Singh, a resident of Kirti Nagar in west Delhi who started working at Laforestta Café three months ago, told investigators during questioning that the incident was an accident, and dry ice was mixed with mouth fresheners due to the negligence of staff members, said assistant commissioner of police (Manesar) Surender Sheoran.

“The diners were served dry ice — a solidified form of carbon dioxide which is dangerous if consumed as it converts into gaseous form. Restaurants use it to store baked items and for presentations because it emits vapours. It can burn the mouth, oesophagus, and stomach if ingested, and in extreme cases, it can even rupture the stomach,” said Dr Vikram Yadav, director of Aarvy Health Care in Sector 90 where the five diners were admitted on Saturday night.

Singh was produced before a local court and sent to 14-day judicial custody, said officers. “We will issue a notice to the restaurant’s owner to join the investigation,” said ACP Sheoran.

The incident occurred on Saturday when Manik Goenka was celebrating his birthday at Laforestta Café with his wife Pritika Rustagi, their friends Deepak Arora and his wife Himani, and Ankit Kumar and his wife Neha Sabharwal, all aged between 25 and 30. Kumar and Sabharwal’s one-year-old daughter was also present.

After dinner, at around 10pm, they asked the staff for mouth fresheners. A waitress brought them a bowl of crystals resembling “mishri” or sweeteners, which everyone in the group except Kumar and his daughter consumed. Immediately, they felt uncomfortable and began spitting blood. According to Kumar, they screamed for help, but the restaurant staff did not step forward. Kumar then called the police, which in turn called an ambulance. But Kumar said that they decided not to wait for the ambulance and he and Pritika, whose condition was not as serious as the others, drove their four friends to the hospital in their cars. Kumar said that he forcibly took some of the crystals from the restaurant’s employees to show them to doctors, and later gave them to the police. A video recorded by Kumar, which was widely shared on social media, showed the diners screaming and vomiting blood.

Based on Kumar’s complaint, a first information report was filed against the restaurant staff at Kherki Daula police station on Sunday under Sections 328 (causing hurt by poison) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

A police team led by ACP Sheoran visited the restaurant on Tuesday to investigate where the dry ice was kept, but found the establishment locked. Deepak Kumar Jewaria, deputy commissioner of police (Manesar), said they sent the crystals for chemical analysis.

On Tuesday, Shridhar (one name), another manager of the Laforestta Café, said the restaurant was cooperating with the police. “We are still unclear what was in the bowl that was served to the guests by the waitress. We are verifying all allegations,” he said.

Officials of the excise department said that the restaurant had applied for an excise licence recently. Vivek Aggarwal, assistant excise and taxation commissioner (AETO), said that the file of the restaurant’s liquor licence was sent to the head office. “They had yet not received the licence to serve liquor so it does not fall under our jurisdiction. The licence will only be granted after a thorough background check,” he said.

Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide (CO2) and, when ingested, can cause severe internal injuries. As it comes into contact with moisture in the mouth or digestive tract, dry ice rapidly sublimates, releasing large amounts of CO2. This can lead to a dangerous buildup of gas in the digestive system, causing bloating, vomiting, and potentially life-threatening complications such as perforation of the stomach or intestines, or asphyxiation due to the displacement of oxygen. Immediate medical attention is crucial if dry ice is ingested.

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