Rosca de Reyes cake. Photo courtesy Orange County Health Care Agency.
Rosca de Reyes cake. Photo courtesy Orange County Health Care Agency.

A holiday sweet bread that caused more than 40 people in Orange County to become ill might have been deliberately laced with a synthetic drug that mimics the active ingredient in marijuana, according to a study commissioned by a local newspaper.

Pharmacologist Neil Spingarn, the president of a Santa Ana-based S&N Laboratories, tested a sample of the Three Kings Day bread and found it contaminated with “a substantial” amount of a synthetic cannabinoid — an artificial THC with intensified effects, the Orange County Register reported. THC is the main chemical ingredient in marijuana.

“The levels in the cake are not small,” Spingarn told the newspaper. “What is most striking is that this was not inadvertent.”

The Register obtained a sample of the bread from a Santa Ana woman who said it made her ill last week and hired S&N Labs, which is licensed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, to test it.

The Orange County Health Care Agency has said its own preliminary lab results found an unidentified synthetic drug in the bread, prompting the Santa Ana Police Department to launch a criminal investigation. Health investigators have not confirmed a specific drug and further lab results are expected within two weeks, authorities said.

The owners of the bakery that made the bread, Cholula’s Bakery in Santa Ana, have been cooperating with investigators, police told the Register.

The bakery made the bread for the Three Kings Day celebration on Jan. 6 and distributed it to nine stores in Orange County and one in Long Beach.

More than 40 people who ate the bread suffered such symptoms as heart palpitations, dizziness, numbness and hallucinations.

The “Rosca de Reyes” bread was sold at the following markets:

— Cholula’s Bakery, 1002 East 17th Street, Santa Ana;

— 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.

Anyone who thinks they consumed the tainted bread was encouraged to contact Santa Ana police Crimes Against Persons Unit at (714) 245-8390.

—City News Service

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