TAMPA — Doctors induced labor on a woman nine months pregnant and Walmart yanked meat off one store's shelves this week after a Tampa family of four unknowingly ingested LSD on beef they consumed for dinner.
The incident, so far isolated, occurred Monday night, but only Friday did tests reveal that the bottom round steak contained traces of the hallucinogenic drug, police said.
Ronnie Morales, 24, was the first to feel ill. His pregnant girlfriend, Jessica Rosado, 31, rushed him to St. Joseph's Hospital. But after she got there, she and her two children also started experiencing hallucinations.
Doctors performed tracheal intubations on the boyfriend and the two children, Elyana Serrano, 7, and Rayna Serrano, who turned 6 on Friday.
"The family has no idea where this may have come from and there's no indication of any involvement on the part of the family," Tampa police Chief Jane Castor said at a news conference.
The raw, thin-cut, bottom round steak, prepackaged on sealed trays by Cargill, reportedly was purchased at the Walmart store at 1501 N Dale Mabry Highway, according to police and a company spokeswoman.
Castor said there was no outward sign that the meat was tainted.
"It was the physical symptoms they had, which included hallucinations, dizziness, rapid heart rate and difficulty breathing," she said.
The family had just cooked supper for the first time in their new home on Bel Aire Circle, within walking distance of the west Tampa hospital. They had moved in about two days earlier, police reported.
Castor said it's unknown how potent of a dose of LSD the family members ingested. She didn't want to speculate on the intensity of their experiences. However, she said, "I'm not sure that I've ever seen or heard of anyone who has consumed LSD that had to be intubated."
Rosado gave birth at St. Joseph's Women's Hospital. Castor said the baby, a boy, was reported to be healthy.
LSD can lead to birth defects if used frequently by a mother, according to the American Pregnancy Association. But nine months is late enough in term that a one-time use of LSD would not cause any genetic abnormalities, said Dr. Mark Hudak, a neonatologist with the University of Florida College of Medicine in Jacksonville.
"I'd be optimistic that the baby would be okay," he said.
All family members have since been released from the hospital. They did not attend the news conference, and Castor said they have asked for privacy, noting that they are now at home with a newborn.
The store voluntarily turned over its supply of the product to the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office for testing. Castor said it could take up to three weeks for results.
She said police had not yet interviewed any store employees but are working closely with Walmart in the investigation. The company has been very cooperative, she said.
Walmart spokesman Dianna Gee issued a statement Friday afternoon saying the company is "deeply disturbed" about the situation and is taking it seriously.
"We want answers, and we're committed to working with officials to get to the bottom of this," Gee said.
It's unclear where the tampering occurred and if it happened before or after purchase, she said. Meat was removed from shelves in an abundance of caution, she said. Packages did not show any outward sign of tampering.
"We have been in touch with our supplier, and they tell us they have no reports of similar incidents," she said. "We are also reviewing our store's surveillance video to see if we can find any information that might assist in the investigation. At this point, we're not aware of any suspicious activity."
Customers who recently purchased meat at the store and wish to return it may do so by returning the meat or showing a receipt, she said.
Police said they have no other similar incidents and are not sure yet if a crime has been committed. Neither of the two adults has a criminal history.
Castor said LSD use is not prevalent in Tampa, nor is it rare. When officers encounter it, users are generally young.
Investigators collected items from the home, including the stove, to look for clues.
"Everything is on the table right now," Castor said. "We're not going to speculate on any theory. We're going to investigate everything from top to bottom to figure out where this did come from."
News researcher John Martin and staff writers Jodie Tillman, Keeley Sheehan and Jessica Vander Velde contributed to this report. Patty Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3382.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated an outcome for test results on the meat's packaging. At the time of publication, only test results on the beef itself were released.