The last thing Coca-Cola needs right now, in the middle of their push to brand themselves as a health-conscious company, is someone dying from drinking too much Coke. But that's exactly what a New Zealand coroner is saying happened to Natasha Harris, a woman who drank as much as 2.5 gallons of the sugary stuff each day.
Coroner David Crerar says that Harris' Coke habit was a "substantial factor" in the death of the 30-year-old mother of eight. The official cause of her death in early 2010 was a heart attack. But that outcome — as well as her cardiac arrhythmia, enlarged liver, rotten teeth, addiction-like behavior, and the fact that one of her babies was born without tooth enamel — can be linked to all that Coke guzzling, according to Crerar. His report reads:
I find that when all the available evidence is considered, were it not for the consumption of very large quantities of Coke by Natasha Harris, it is unlikely that she would have died when she died and how she died
By drinking that much soda, Harris was doubling the daily recommended caffeine intake limit, and exceeding sugar recommendations 11 times over. But her family didn't think her Coke crutch was especially dangerous, since there aren't any warning labels on Coca-Cola products. Crerar recommends that Coca-Cola "give consideration to the inclusion of advice as to quantity of caffeine on labels (in) its products" as well as "appropriate warnings related to the dangers of consuming excessive quantities of the products." London-based cardiologist and regular Guardian contributor Dr. Aseem Malhotra also raises the question of whether Coke should come with a warning:
Coca-Cola disagrees. A representative says that the company is "disappointed" about the coroner report. And understandably so, considering all the money they poured into that two-minute ad touting how Coca-Cola will "play an important role" in tackling the health concerns many have raised about soft drinks. Connections between soda and cigarettes are being floated in public health rhetoric, and a high-profile death isn't helping the soft drink giant make its case for being part of a healthy diet. However, the case of Natasha Harris is clearly an outlier — the coroner said as much when he wrote that Coke "cannot be held responsible for the health of consumers who drink unhealthy quantities of the product."