LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Parents are being warned that a product called “Tropical Ice” is not a food product.

KNX 1070’s Jon Baird reports, “It was a very scary week for one KNX staffer. A La Verne family member whipped up some St. Patricks Day cupcakes. She thought she was adding some green sprinkles but they weren’t green sprinkles at all.”

She was actually using “Tropical Ice,” which comes in a variety of colors but not only is it not food, it’s a soil substitute for plants.

The little spinkle-like crystals absorb water and expand. KCAL9’s Kristine Lazar said the little crystals can expand to 100 times their size.

“In small print,” she reported, “it reads ‘For Plant Use.'”

Adults who ate the cupcakes were fine, but KNX’s Darlene Rodrigo told Baird that two days after her kids ate the cupcakes, they were in extreme pain and had non-stop vomiting.

Rodrigo says her children — 6-year-old Bella and 4-year-old Anthony — were hospitalized for five days, with the possibility of going to the operating room.

“Because of the digestion of them, they were growing inside my children’s stomach and intestines. It actually caused a blockage in my daughter’s,” says Rodrigo.

She told Lazar that the vomiting in Bella (who is non-verbal and who has Down’s Syndrome and Autism) “got so bad, she couldn’t even let all the vomit out, she began choking on it.”

Fortunately, her kids didn’t need surgery, but she says, it was an “honest mistake that became very traumatizing experience for everyone.”

Rodrigo added, “When we called the Poison Control Center, they said there were other cases where children [who ate the crystals] had to have actual surgeries.”

Lee Cantrell with the California Poison Control System told Baird that when they see cases like the one with Rodrigo’s children, they most often end up in the ER.

“We do run across some cases,” says Cantrell, “where we get people who get pretty sick.”

This story is reminiscent of the many consumers who confused Sunlight dish washing liquid soap with  lemonade drink mix in 1982.

Consumers should “be sure to read the labels before putting anything on your food,” Baird reminded.

Anyone with concerns about questionable products that may have been ingested should contact the Poison Control Center at: (800)222-1222 or contact the California Poison Control System.

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