By Kenneth Knight
TAMPA, Fl. (Reuters) - A pregnant woman and her family were hospitalized this week after eating steak bought from a Wal-Mart that local authorities believed was laced with the hallucinogenic drug LSD, according to the medical examiner's initial test results.
A blue balloon announcing "Baby Boy" fluttered on Saturday outside the home where the family has since returned after Jessica Rosado, who was nine months pregnant when she arrived at the hospital near her home in Tampa, gave birth after having labor induced.
Rosado, her partner Ronnie Morales and her two young daughters fell ill on Monday evening after eating some bottom round steak bought from a local Wal-Mart, according to the Tampa Police Department.
It was the first meal they had cooked in their new home having moved in two days earlier, police said.
Morales was the first to feel sick, and Rosado drove him and her daughters to St Joseph's Hospital after calling 911. He arrived hallucinating and feeling dizzy and short of breath.
Rosado then began displaying the same symptoms, and was taken to a hospital across the street where labor was induced and her baby delivered. The two daughters, ages 6 and 7, were sickened a little later that evening.
Police took samples of the food the family had been eating from the home. The Hillsborough County medical examiner's office told police on Friday that the steak was contaminated, and that tests showed the presence of lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, police said.
Police also took the family's oven away for testing. Results from toxicology tests on blood samples taken from the family may take another three weeks, police said.
"There was enough of some type of substance to make all four members of that family gravely ill," Jane Castor, Tampa's police chief, told a press conference on Friday. "The family has no idea where this may have come from."
She said that police had taken all the other bottom round steaks from the Wal-Mart for testing but that this was believed to be an isolated case, and that it was not clear whether a crime had been committed.
LSD is a fragile chemical, and can quickly degrade even at room temperature or when exposed to light. If the test results are correct, it remained unclear how a steak might be dosed with LSD in a way that it could retain its potency even when cooked.
Police said they were still investigating how or why a steak might end up contaminated in this way.
Wal-Mart said it was cooperating with the investigation by police and both federal and state agricultural officials. A spokeswoman pointed out that Wal-Mart receives its meat already prepared and packaged from suppliers, and it was unclear at what point contamination might have taken place.
Morales and the daughters were released from the hospital on Wednesday, and Rosado and her newborn son, whom police described as healthy, were released on Thursday.
"We're just very grateful that the family appears to be OK," Dianna Gee, the Wal-Mart spokeswoman, said.
(Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Marguerita Choy)