WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A New Zealand food industry association on Wednesday rejected a coroner’s call to add health warnings to soft-drink labels following the 2010 death of a woman who drank about two gallons of Coca-Cola a day.
Coroner David Crerar issued a final report Tuesday into the death of 31-year-old Natasha Harris, concluding that the mother of eight died from a heart attack. He said the large amount of Coca-Cola she drank likely led to metabolic imbalances that gave rise to her heart problems, adding that Coke was likely a “substantial factor” in her death.
But New Zealand Food & Grocery Council Chief Executive Katherine Rich said “there isn’t a labeling regime in the world” that could have prevented the death of somebody who chose to drink Coke in such large quantities.
The New Zealand branch of the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Company, the world’s largest beverage maker, disputed the coroner’s findings, noting that experts could not agree on the most likely cause of Harris’ death.
Crerar recommended that soft-drink makers consider including caffeine levels on the labels and warnings about the ill health effects if the drinks are consumed in excessive quantities.
Under New Zealand’s food labeling system, warnings are mandatory on drinks with caffeine levels higher than 145 milligrams per kilogram. That covers many energy drinks, but not most soft drinks.
Rich said the coroner’s recommendations were well-intentioned but ill-informed. She said that coffee, tea and chocolate also contain significant amounts of caffeine and that New Zealanders are unlikely to support the notion of health warnings every time they walk into a cafe or buy a chocolate bar.
She said the huge volume of Coca-Cola that Harris drank meant she couldn’t receive adequate nutrients from other food sources.