‘No evidence’ that Taco Bell workers put rat poison in customer’s food, investigators say

Authorities are investigating after a Colorado man was hospitalized from eating rat poison in...
Authorities are investigating after a Colorado man was hospitalized from eating rat poison in a to-go order from Taco Bell. It's unclear how the rat poison ended up in the food.(Source: KCNC via CNN)
Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 3:11 PM CST
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CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Gray News) – Authorities in Colorado said there is no evidence that employees of a Taco Bell in the town of Centennial put rat poison in a customer’s food.

The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office provided new details on the case Friday after the man was hospitalized for ingesting rat poison in a Taco Bell soft taco last weekend.

The sheriff’s office said it all began when they responded to a disturbance call at about 1 p.m. on Jan. 15 at the Taco Bell on East Smoky Hill Road.

Deputies found that a customer had gotten into an argument with drive-thru employees about the restaurant’s soda machine being out of order. The customer became angry and requested a burrito instead of the drink he ordered. Initially, the employees told the customer they could not do that. But after the customer continued to argue with the workers, they finally gave him a burrito in place of the drink, and the man left.

Later that evening, at about 7:50 p.m., deputies responded to an area hospital for a report of a patient who said he had eaten food with rat poison in it.

At the hospital, deputies spoke to that patient, who was determined to be the customer from the Taco Bell disturbance call earlier that day.

According to the sheriff’s office, the man told deputies he took his food from Taco Bell and went home around 1 p.m. but did not immediately eat the food. He helped a neighbor do some yard work and then watched TV before eating his Taco Bell meal around 7 p.m.

The man told deputies he immediately felt a burning in his mouth and began to vomit. He called 911 and was taken to the hospital.

At the hospital, deputies inspected the soft taco the man had taken a bite out of and noticed a “greenish-gray” substance in the taco. Lab tests confirmed it was rat poison.

Deputies said the man gave them consent to enter his home and take the remaining Taco Bell food as evidence. The Taco Bell in question was immediately closed and law enforcement began an investigation at the restaurant.

The sheriff’s office said the employees of Taco Bell were “very helpful” and turned over all video surveillance from inside the building.

Over the course of this week, investigators have been combing through the surveillance video from Taco Bell and said they found no evidence that the employees were responsible for putting the rat poison in the food.

Deputies said the customer has now stopped cooperating with the investigation and has not answered their attempts to speak with him, both over the phone and in person at his home.

“Although there is no evidence that the employees at Taco Bell put the rat poison in the food, investigators cannot account for how it got in the food,” the sheriff’s office said. “If the customer has any information that can help with the investigation into how the poison could have gotten into the food, we request he contacts the sheriff’s office.”

The case will remain an open and active investigation, officials said. No further information will be released at this time.