Woman's Coca-Cola addiction deadly

Family support idea of warning labels

EVAN HARDING AND SAM BOYER
Last updated 15:20 12/02/2013
Fairfax NZ

A coroner has linked heavy Coca-Cola consumption to the death of Natasha Harris. Her husband Christopher Hodgkinson speaks about the finding.

Natasha Marie Harris
ADDICTED: Natasha Harris didn't like being without the fizzy drink.
Southland Times photo
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
Invercargill man Chris Hodgkinson whose wife Natasha Harris, died in February 2010. Mr Hodgkinson believes she died from the large amounts of Coke she drank every day. He is pictured with a copy of the prelimary autopsy report.

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The family of Invercargill woman Natasha Harris has come out in support of the coroner's findings into her death, saying they want warning labels put on coke bottles to help prevent a similar tragedy.

Natasha's mother, Lynette Harris said she had not thought a soft drink could contribute to someone's death.

''If it contributed to her death, yes, put warning labels on coke bottles, '' she said.

While other family members blamed Coca Cola for contributing to Natasha's death, she did not hold the company responsible, saying she smoked and would not blame the cigarette manufacturers if she died of lung cancer.

''It was her (Natasha's) choice to drink coke.''

''She didn't like water or tea or coffee and she didn't eat much either and that had a lot to do with it.''

Having eight kids in eight years had also taken a lot out of her, her mother said.

Natasha's partner, Chris Hodgkinson, said warning labels had to be put on coke bottles, especially for the benefit of children.

''I am glad the coroner has come to a conclusion, finally, after three years. I always knew coke played a big part in her death.''

He wanted the caffeine levels in coke dropped if no warning signs were put on the bottles, he said.

''So long as they get the warnings out there I will be happy. I don't want any other kids to go through what our kids have gone through.''

Drinking too much Coke helped kill mother of eight Natasha Harris, the coroner has found.

Harris drank up to 10 litres of Coke every day - equal to more than twice the recommended safe daily limit of caffeine and almost one kilogram of sugar.

She died aged 30, on February 25, 2010, from a cardiac arrest. Her partner, Christopher Hodgkinson, found her seated on the toilet, slumped against the wall and gasping for air.

Coca-Cola has argued that the huge quantities of Coke drunk daily by Harris day could not be proven to have contributed to her death.

But in findings released today, coroner David Crerar said Harris would not have died if it wasn't for her dependence on Coke.

''I find 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.''

In the months leading up to her death her health had deteriorated, Hodgkinson said.

''She had no energy and was feeling sick all the time ... She would get up and vomit in the morning.''

He said her Coke habit had become an addiction: ''She would get moody and get headaches if she didn't have any Coke and also feel low in energy.''

Hodgkinson's mother Vivian said Harris got ''withdrawal symptoms'' if her Coke ran out, including getting ''the shakes'' and becoming angry.

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The family did not consider Coke was harmful because its labels do not contain warning signs.

In a statement today, Coca Cola said: "The Coroner acknowledged that he could not be certain what caused Ms Harris' heart attack.  Therefore 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". 

The coronial decision revealed Harris likely suffered from a myriad of medical conditions, including a racing heart and ''absent teeth'', which her family say had rotted out from Coke consumption.

They contend, also, that the amount of Coke Harris drank ruined her children's teeth, with at least one of her kids being born without enamel on their teeth.

Harris drank up to 10 litres per day, the coroner estimated - which works out to more than twice the recommended daily caffeine consumption and more than 11 times the recommended sugar intake.

- Stuff

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