A worker at a Florida Hibachi Express contaminated Yum Yum sauce with drain cleaner because he was unhappy with his working conditions
Florida's  Hibachi Express where the Yum Yum sauce was laced with drain cleaner by chef Padilla Unknown

A vengeful chef has been jailed for seven years after putting deadly drain cleaner into Yum Yum sauce.

Margarito Padilla was found guilty of lacing the sauce with caustic soda, or plumber's lye, at the Japanese restaurant chain Hibachi Express where he worked in North Lakeland, central Florida.

The 54-year-old was caught in the act on surveillance video and did not contest the charge of introducing a chemical into a food or drink in a Florida court on Wednesday (7 February).

Padilla, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, was arrested in June last year after the restaurant's owner became suspicious a batch of the all-purpose sauce served with meals had been tampered with.

Owner Zhong Kun Jiang was checking supplies in the restaurant's walk-in refrigerator when he noticed the strange appearance of the 55-gallon container Yum Yum Sauce.

He dipped his finger into the sauce and tasted it, his mouth instantly began to burn like something was cutting at his tongue and mouth, he told detectives.

The owner reviewed the restaurant's surveillance video, which showed Padilla with a bulge in his pocket near where the drain cleaner is kept.

Chef Margarito Padilla was jailed for seven years after putting deadly drain cleaner into Yum Yum sauce
Chef Margarito Padilla was jailed for seven years after putting deadly drain cleaner into Yum Yum sauce Lakeland County Police

Cameras then pick him up near the area the sauce was kept, but this time the bulge had disappeared, reported The Ledger.

Zhong called in the police who arrested Padilla at a nearby Lakeland motel where he lived.

Officers said the cook initially denied having anything to do with the incident, but after he was later told about the surveillance footage he confessed to the crime.

He told detectives he was angry at the unfair working conditions imposed by the restaurant owner.

Poisoning food by using a chemical is punishable by up to 30 years in prison in the US.

Chief assistant state attorney Jacob Orr had pleaded for the court to hand Padilla a minimum prison term of four years and six months.

After Judge Kevin Abdoney sentenced him, he told Padilla that when he was released from jail, his case would be transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.