Officials at a preschool in Hawaii have apologized after young children were given Pine-Sol instead of apple juice to drink during a morning snack time, a mix-up that health officials said occurred because the two liquids were “the same color.”
A classroom assistant prepared the snacks — which should have been crackers and apple juice — in the preschool’s kitchen, according to an inspection report by the Hawaii State Department of Health.
Instead of juice, however, the assistant reportedly grabbed a container of Pine-Sol, a decades-old brand of household cleaner that comes in a variety of scents, though none particularly reminiscent of apple juice.
“The assistant saw the yellow/brown colored liquid container on a cleanup cart in the kitchen and returned to the classroom with the crackers and container with liquid,” the inspection report stated. “The assistant poured the liquid into cups as the classroom teacher oversaw the students at the restroom.”
The report noted that the classroom teacher “smelled that it was not apple juice and stopped the students from drinking it.”
However, Honolulu Emergency Medical Services confirmed to The Washington Post that paramedics examined three girls, two 5-year-olds and one 4-year-old, who had taken at least a sip from their cups.
“We can confirm they were given a substance that was considered poisonous for human consumption,” Honolulu EMS spokesman Dustin Malama told The Post. “When our paramedics evaluated the children, they seemed perfectly fine, and they were laughing and playing. It seemed like nothing had happened.”
Malama said that the girls showed “no obvious signs of injury, trauma or sickness” and that their parents declined transport to a hospital. Poison-control specialists advised them that the girls “didn’t drink nearly enough to be considered a problem,” he added.
“As far as the incident goes — aside from the obvious [question of] how do you mistake Pine-Sol and apple juice? — it was fairly unremarkable,” Malama said.
Nevertheless, several parents were outraged at the switch-up. According to the inspection report, the Pine-Sol was properly labeled in its original container, and the cart on which it had been found did not contain food items, only a trash can and cleaning supplies.
The preschool’s cleaning supplies are “stored below the kitchen sink and in the janitors room,” the report stated, while food items “are properly stored and labeled in the kitchen cabinets.”
“I think it’s extremely terrifying,” parent Turina Lovelin told KHON News. “It’s very, very scary, but it’s hard for me, or any of the people that I’ve spoken to, to understand how it happened in the first place.”
Preschool officials emailed parents to inform them about the incident and held a meeting, describing the mix-up as “unfortunate” and promising to reexamine the snack preparation process “to rule out the smallest possibility of an occurrence like this from happening again,” according to Hawaii News Now.
The classroom assistant who served the Pine-Sol no longer works at the preschool, KHON reported.
The preschool’s director did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
There was no food-safety violation noted, according to the health department’s inspection report.