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Suit Alleges Rat in Diet Pepsi Can Made Woman Ill : Courts: Mexican teacher says the tainted drink was bought in Buena Park. Soft-drink maker calls the scenario improbable.

October 18, 1994|SUSAN MARQUEZ OWEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — A 22-year-old woman has sued the Pepsi Cola Co. and a grocery store chain, alleging that a can of Pepsi she bought contained a decaying rat.

Maria Del Consuelo Lazaro's lawsuit filed Friday in Orange County Superior Court claims that, while visiting family in Buena Park in July, she took a drink of Diet Pepsi that she had bought at an Albertson's only to spit out some strange matter. A few hours later, according to the suit, she went to Anaheim General Hospital with extreme abdominal pains, diarrhea and vomiting.

Staff at the emergency ward opened the can and discovered a full-grown mature rat about the size of a fist, said Lazaro's attorney, Daniel Ramirez of Buena Park. The hospital later sent the can and its contents to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which concluded that the rat was "canned at the Pepsi plant," Ramirez said.

But a Pepsi spokeswoman called the scenario of a canned rat improbable.

"It's highly unlikely that any sort of animal could find its way into a canned soft drink because of our manufacturing process and the quality control that we do," spokeswoman Anne Ward said from Somers, N.Y., on Monday. "We need to determine whether the rat got into the can before or after it was opened."

She added: "There are just some logical questions one has to ask. A can with something in it would have weighed more, and it would have been very noticeable that there was something wrong with it before it was consumed."

A manager at the Albertson's in Buena Park would not comment on the suit.

Ramirez said that for his client, who is a teacher in Mexico, the incident "has changed her life and taken away her peace of mind.

"That's not what you're supposed to do to consumers. We're not supposed to have to open up every can and inspect it before we drink it."

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