Recently, the Associated Press reported that a New Zealand woman died as a result of a Coke habit. Hearing reports of someone dying because of coke is nothing new, but this time we aren’t talking about the powdery white stuff. Rather, this time a woman has died after regularly consuming 2 gallons of Coca-Cola per day.
After the 30-year old mother of eight died of a heart attack in February 2010, an inquest was held to investigate the unusual death. According to the AP, pathologist Dr. Dan Mornin testified that Harris most likely suffered from hypokalemia caused by the excessive consumption of Coke (between 2.1 and 2.6 gallons daily) and overall poor nutrition. Further, Dr. Mornin indicated that toxic levels of caffeine may have contributed to her death. That, and the fact that she ate little and smoked 30 cigarettes per day.
While we have never thought of soda as necessarily healthy, we have also never considered it a killer. Even though this incident has earned our (and certainly the Coca-Cola Company’s) attention, we don’t expect Coca-Cola do be worried about any potential litigation. First, there are clearly factors other than mere ingestion of Coke at play here. Harris’ consumption was far beyond the realm of reasonable use. As Coca-Cola Oceania was quick to point out, even water can be dangerous in excessive amounts. Couple her excessive consumption with her poor appetite and pack-and-a-half per day smoking habit, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Second, the risk of heart attack after drinking two gallons of Coke daily is not a risk of which Coca-Cola has a duty to warn. The hazards of caffeine are well-documented. Therefore, it should go without saying that the risks of drinking a soda swimming pool should be open and obvious.
This incident is not about Coca-Cola, Pepsi, or any other soda manufacturer. This is about over-consumption and an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle. Even the fast food litigation has more merit than dragging a soda manufacturer into court after super-saturating oneself with the product.