At least 40 people in Orange County suffered symptoms ranging from nausea to hallucinations after eating Three Kings cake laced with a synthetic drug, prompting a criminal investigation of the bakery that made it, police said Friday.
Officials closed Cholula’s Bakery in Santa Ana on Wednesday after up to 40 customers reported getting sick after eating Rosca de Reyes bread on Monday and Tuesday, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.
Nurses from multiple hospitals contacted Santa Ana police after dozens of patients turned up sick earlier this week, said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, of the Santa Ana Police Department.
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Bertagna said patients were nauseous and were having hallucinations and out-of-body experiences.
"The only common denominator with all these patients is they ate this Three Kings bread in celebration of the holiday," he said.
He is hoping laboratory specialists can identify exactly what was contained in the bread.
"There are hundreds of types of synthetic drugs," Bertagna said. "Hopefully they can isolate what exactly we're talking about."
The fruitcake, which is traditionally eaten on Jan. 6 to mark Three Kings Day, was distributed around California. Customers became ill with symptoms including dizziness, palpitations, and numbness, officials said. The cake is also known as Three Kings bread.
Lab results showed the presence of a synthetic drug in the bread, said health officials, who handed the case over to the Santa Ana Police Department, which launched a criminal investigation.
Esperanza Rodriguez, 60, of Santa Ana, said that after eating the cake she felt dizzy, her mouth was dry and eventually she fainted.
Other victims include a man in his mid-40s, his teenage daughter and son, and a 4-year-old boy, who all reported feeling nauseated and anxious as if they were under the influence of a drug, police said.
People who believe they have consumed the tainted bread are encouraged to contact the Santa Ana Police Crimes Against Persons Unit at 714-245-8390.
The bakery will remain closed until it meets three criteria — professional restaurant-grade cleaning, disposal of all opened food and all ingredients used to make the Rosca de Reyes bread, and mandatory food safety training for all staff.
The bread was sold at Cholula's Bakery and the following outlets:
-- El Nopal Mercado, 31451 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano;
-- La Bodega Ranch, 918 N. Glassell St., Orange;
-- La Bodega Ranch, 1700 N. Placentia Ave., Fullerton;
-- Santa Ana Marquet, 1216 W. 1st St., Santa Ana;
-- Tony's Liquor, 32141 Alipaz St., San Juan Capistrano;
-- Gonzalez Marquet, 235 W. La Jolla St., Placentia;
-- Taqueria Mocorito Restaurant, 1076 N. State College Blvd., Anaheim;
-- Taco Boy, 725 N. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim;
-- Brianna's Ice Cream, 2107 E. Ball Road, Anaheim;
-- La Bodega Ranch Market, 4945 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach.
Calls to the bakery for comment were not immediately returned.