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Cyanide Found In Tea Bag In Supermarket

February 12, 1987

PRINCETON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) _ About 10,000 cheese packages have been removed from a supermarket’s shelves after a lethal dose of cyanide was found in a tea bag in the store, officials said.

The tainted tea bag was found at a Super Fresh supermarket here after an anonymous caller posing as a newspaper reporter told the store he was investigating a report that cyanide had been placed in a tea bag and some cheese.

″We don’t have a reason to believe any cheese at any other store is contaminated,″ state Health Department spokeswoman Leigh Cook said Wednesday. She said no tainted cheese had turned up at the Princeton Township store, either.

No injuries as a result of the tampering were reported, authorities said.

The caller, who telephoned the market Tuesday night, said he had been told that cyanide was placed in a tea bag and cheese, according to officials. He reportedly said he had been told the poison had been placed in the tea bag to give credibility to the threat of cyanide in the cheese.

The tea bag was found in a location given by the caller and all cheese products and tea were pulled from the shelves, Ms. Cook said. Tests conducted Wednesday by the Health Department and the federal Food and Drug Administration found no additional poison, she said.

About 10,000 cheese packages were removed from the shelves and about 200 randomly sent to the FDA and the Health Department for analysis, Ms. Cook said. She said she did not know how many of the 200 packages had been analyzed by late Wednesday.

However, the Health Department laboratory analyzed the tea bag and determined it contained a lethal dose of the poison, Ms. Cook said.

She said the brand of tea bag that was contaminated is not carried by the store.

Super Fresh Markets Inc. issued a recall for any cheese products purchased at the supermarket near Princeton University, said the supermarket’s area manager, Dennis Chalela. Authorities urged supermarket patrons not to eat any cheese purchased at the store.

Health officials suspect the caller was the same person who tampered with the tea bag, Ms. Cook said.

The FBI, FDA and local authorities were investigating, she said.

Mercer County Prosecutor Pete Koenig would not comment on whether there were any suspects.

On Labor Day, 27-year-old Louis Denber of the southern New Jersey town of Runnemede died after eating cyanide-laced chicken noodle soup.

The case is unsolved, as are the deaths of the 10 other people nationwide who ingested cyanide-tainted consumer products in recent years.

FBI investigators have said all the killings may be random. No one has been charged in any of the deaths.

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