SANTA ANA, Calif. – Investigators were trying to determine how a synthetic drug made its way into holiday bread that sickened dozens of people in Southern California.
Police were called in because the Rosca de Reyes bread was made at the local Cholula's Bakery, which was ordered closed last week after consumers complained of heart palpitations, dizziness, numbness and hallucinations.
The bakery will not reopen until the property is professionally cleaned, all ingredients used to make the tainted bread are thrown away and staff members are trained in food safety, Nicole Stanfield, spokeswoman for the Orange County Health Care Agency, told the Orange County Register (http://bit.ly/1tY1XPP ).
The sweet bread is traditionally eaten Jan. 6 for the Latin American holiday of Kings Day, which celebrates the arrival of the Three Wise Men as told in the Bible.
The bread was sold at the bakery and at 10 stores in Orange County and Long Beach.
Preliminary laboratory results turned up indications of a synthetic drug but specialists will need to identify it, police said.
"There are hundreds of types of synthetic drugs," Cpl. Anthony Bertagna told KNBC-TV (http://bit.ly/14JbHl5). "Hopefully they can isolate what exactly we're talking about."
Esperanza Rodriguez, 60, of Santa Ana, told the station that she got dizzy and eventually fainted after eating the cake.
Ireri Hinojosa of Santa Ana woman told the Register that she felt "strange" after eating the bread and was hospitalized.
She was angry to hear about the discovery of a drug.
"This bread is shared for celebrations," she said. "I'm lucky my children didn't get ahold of it."
A 4-year-old boy also was among those who reported nausea or other symptoms, police said.
The bakery's owners apologized last week in Spanish and English Facebook postings.
"Our small business has been in operation for over 14 years and we have never seen anything like this; at the same time we don't want anyone to think that for any reason we are attempting to bypass our responsibilities," the statements said.
The bakery was "ashamed" about the incident and is collaborating with the health department, the statements said.