Natasha Marie Harris, a 30-year-old mother from New Zealand, drank nearly two gallons of Coca-Cola each day for several years until she died of a heart attack in February, 2010.
Currently, a coroner’s inquest in New Zealand is trying to make sense of this tragedy.
Medical Point-of-View #1
Pathologist Dr Dan Mornin told the court Ms Harris’ main cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia, but she also had severe hypokalemia – lack of potassium in the blood – probably relating to excessive consumption of soft-drink. He said although it was difficult to confirm this from post-mortem tests, it was consistent with her symptoms of tiredness and lack of strength and with other cases of heavy soft-drink consumers. Dr Mornin said it was probable a combination of factors, including poor diet, played a role in her death.
The Family’s Point-of-View
Ms. Harris’ partner, Chris Hodgkinson, is convinced Ms Harris’ consumption of about 7.5 litres of Coca-Cola every day contributed to her death and has called for health warning labels on the soft drink.
- He told the court she had been unwell up to a year before her death, including vomiting six times a week.
Dr Mornin said it was likely her vomiting was caused by having too much caffeine in her body.
- Mr. Hodgkinson said he had known Ms Harris since she was 16. She had always drunk Coke, but in the past seven or eight years she had increased her consumption to five bottles a day.
- Mr Hodgkinson said she was addicted to Coke and without it would become moody, irritable and “quite nasty” and be low in energy.
- But he did not suspect the beverage could be making her ill.
“I never thought about it. It’s just a soft-drink, just like drinking water.”
Medical Point-of-View #2
Professor Doug Sellman of the National Addiction Centre said all soft drinks and unhealthy foods should be marked red under a ‘traffic light’ food labelling system.
- And he compared companies selling those foods without warning labels to drug dealers.
“This is being very strongly resisted by the food industry. It’s a bad idea if you’re into drug dealing. It’s just a good idea if you’re into health.”
The Food Lobby’s Point-of-View
Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said comparing food companies to drug dealers was unfair and offensive. “Professor Sellman is undermining his credibility with these kinds of comments. To refer to a food company as a drug dealer is patently absurd.”
A traffic light system labelling foods for fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt content would be confusing for consumers, she said. She claimed it would give milk amber lights for fat, saturated and salt, while soft drinks only got one red light for sugar. “It doesn’t work and it ends up sending out very confusing messages.
“The truth is there would not be a warning label on the planet that would have dealt with this extreme consumption. You can’t label for extremes.”
Coca-Cola Amatil New Zealand managing director George Adams said that Mr. Hodgkinson’s claims were “patently untrue”.
They also confirmed that in June last year it had hired a security firm to shadow its staff, after Mr. Hodgkinson, allegedly made death threats against the company.
- Drinking 7.5 litres of Coca-Cola each & every day did contribute to Ms. Harris’ death.
- Coca-Cola knows that drinking 7.5 litres of Coca-Cola isn’t good for anybody’s death.
- They also know that customers like Ms. Harris are great for Coke’s stock price.
- The food lobby lady knows these things as well, but she doesn’t get paid for mea culpas.
- Mr. Hodgkinson is either A. an idiot, B. is trying to get money out of Coca-Cola, or C. both
- Ms. Harris killed herself with poor lifestyle choices.
No one is coming out of this investigation looking good.
Stupid choices + Greed = 8 Kids without a Mom