Iced coffee sends woman to hospital with internal bleeding
A WOMAN was hospitalised with internal bleeding after swallowing glass she believes was amongst ice served with her takeaway coffee at a popular cafe in Sydney's inner-west.
Natalie, 39, was enjoying a cold brew coffee purchased from Brewtown Newtown on Newtown's O'Connell St one Sunday morning earlier this month when she thought she felt something scratch her throat.
"I realised something was wrong as soon as I started swallowing the mouthful of ice," the distressed coffee lover told news.com.au. "It felt hard and sharp, and just not right."
Natalie said she spat out the small pieces of ice she had not yet swallowed, and rolled them in her fingers trying to figure out what was wrong.
"One of the pieces wasn't melting. Instead it cut my finger, which was when I realised it was glass."
The Newtown resident, who is employed by News Corp Australia, said she felt "horrified" at the thought the sharp fragment had been inside her drink.
After cleaning her cut, googling "what happened when you swallow glass", and having well and truly lost the taste for coffee, she kept the evidence and hoped for the best.
It wasn't until about 10.30 the following morning she realised Dr Google's assurances that any glass could pass through the digestive system without any internal damage might have been a little optimistic.
She felt suddenly sick - faint and light-headed. She noticed when she went to the toilet things didn't look right - she had passed blood.
Colleagues called an ambulance which transported Natalie to the Prince of Wales at Randwick, the nearest surgical hospital.
"The ambulance officer told me I might need surgery and that freaked me out. I could be about to be cut open, just because I drank a coffee," she said.
After two days of "humiliating" tests and procedures, much of that time spent in discomfort and pain, Natalie was discharged without having to go under the knife.
Medical reports said she had suffered "rectal bleeding after ingesting ice/glass".
The distressed coffee lover said while her injuries seem to have passed, she feels like the incident will affect her forever.
"My main feeling I have now is fear," Natalie said. "It was something I did every day. My weekends will be different now. I can't completely enjoy catching up over coffee or going out for a drink with someone. I think I will always feel a little bit of anxiety when I order a cold drink."
As well as the lasting impact the incident has had on her personally, Natalie is also fearful of the potential impact on other customers.
While she was in hospital, she notified Brewtown Newtown of the incident and reported it to the Food Safety Authority and the local council.
City of Sydney has confirmed a complaint about the incident had been received, and said it was currently investigating.
In correspondence between Natalie and the cafe representative seen by news.com.au, a representative for Brewtown suggested the glass incident was the fault of the cafe's ice supplier.
They requested Natalie hand over the piece of glass "for analysis" along with a complete log of everything she ate in the 36 hours leading up to purchasing the coffee.
The cafe did not provide details of the external company that supplied the ice nor how it was stored or what action was taken to ensure other customers would not be affected.
"We need the first piece of glass so we can send it off for analysis and have it compared to the glass we have in house," an email to Natalie read. "We then need to send that shard to the ice company so they can determine whether it has come from their production.
"We need the glass that you passed at hospital for it to go through the same analytical process with the ice company and then us."
Brewtown indicated that a second incident had occurred involving "a foreign object", understood not to be glass, found in ice served at the cafe in the same week Natalie found glass in her drink.
Specific questions from news.com.au about the incident and the action taken following both occurrences were met with a brief statement from Clinch Long Woodbridge Lawyers.
"Our client greatly regrets that a valued customer had such an experience at Brewtown and is doing its best to determine how it happened so that it can ensure that it will not happen again," the firm's executive lawyer Patrick Campion said in an email.
"Until our client's investigation is complete, it is not in a position to respond to questions."
Questions over the identity of the ice supplier went unanswered. It is unknown whether the supplier is also investigating the two incidents, and whether the company services other outlets in the area.
Frustrated by the lack of answers over the incident, Natalie said she wanted to see higher food safety standards implemented and communicated, so that she and other customers could be reassured what they were eating and drinking was safe.
"I've never even considered that something like this could ever happen," she said.
"I love iced coffee, and I have two or three of them every single day. It's really one of the simple pleasures of my life. Well, it used to be."
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