London - A mother-of-eight, 30, died suddenly from a cardiac arrest because she drank up to 10 litres of Coke every day for years, a coroner has ruled.
Natasha Harris died on February 25, 2010, after her partner Christopher Hodgkinson found her seated on the toilet, slumped against the wall and gasping for air at their home in Invercargill on New Zealand’s south island.
An inquest in 2012 revealed that she would drink at least four 2.5 litre bottles of the fizzy drink each day, consuming more than twice the recommended daily caffeine consumption and more than 11 times the recommended sugar intake.
New Zealand coroner David Crerar said that Harris would not have died if it wasn’t for her dependence on Coke.
“I found that, when all of 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,” said Crerar, quoted in the Bussleton-Dunsborough Mail.
The coroner’s report revealed Harris suffered from a myriad of medical conditions, including a racing heart and “absent teeth”, which her family say was caused from Coke consumption.
Harris was said to go “crazy” if she ran out of the fizzy drink which she guzzled by the bottle. Hodgkinson said she had been unwell leading up to her death and had no energy, but the idea Coca-Cola caused the problem had never crossed their minds.
Hodgkinson told the court that she had been unwell up to a year before her death, including vomiting six times a week, but they believed it was caused by the stress of looking after her eight children and gynaecological problems.
“She drank at least 10 litres a day,” he said. “As a family we would buy four 2.5 litres a day, the maximum on special. The Coke would be for Natasha to consume over the course of the day.
“The first thing she would do in the morning was have a drink of Coke and the last thing she would do in the day was have a drink of Coke by her bed.”
Police who investigated the death, which happened on February 25, 2010, estimated she consumed, on average, seven litres a day. Her partner said she was addicted to Coke and without it she would get moody, irritable and be low.
“I didn’t ever think about the Coke. I never considered it would do any harm to a person. It’s just a soft drink, just like drinking water. I didn’t think a drink’s going to kill you,” he said.
Vivien Hodgkinson, Hodgkinson’s mother, said she would go “crazy” if she ran out of the drink.
An autopsy showed Harris had a diseased liver. Medical evidence stated that the main finding of death was from a cardiac arrhythmia.
Dr Dan Mornin told the court Harris probably had severe hypokalemia, a lack of potassium in the blood, relating to excessive consumption of the soft-drink.
He said although it was difficult to confirm this from postmortem tests, it was consistent with her symptoms of tiredness and lack of strength. He added it was likely the vomiting was due to caffeine.
He rejected claims he had made the threats, but said he held the company responsible for Harris' death.
Coca-Cola's New Zealand managing director George Adams said at the time of her death that Hodgkinson's claims were 'patently untrue'.
Coca Cola's latest statement said: “The Coroner acknowledged that he could not be certain what caused Ms Harris' heart attack.
'“herefore we are disappointed that the Coroner has chosen to focus on the combination of Ms Harris’ excessive consumption of Coca-Cola, together with other health and lifestyle factors, as the probable cause of her death.
“This is contrary to the evidence that showed the experts could not agree on the most likely cause.” – Daily Mail