“Woman dies after drinking 10 liters of Coke a day,” is one of the featured stories in the Health section of Fox News (April 19, 2012). 

This immediately caught my attention. A woman named Natasha Harris, 30, from New Zealand, a mother of eight children, died from consuming 10 liters of coca-cola every day. As you read the article, you could be slightly convinced that all soft drinks are detrimental to your health. Dr. Dan Mornin, pathologists, estimated that Harris had developed severe hypokalemia due to her “excessive consumption of soda.”

  • Hypokalemia is a metabolic disorder resulted from low levels of potassium in the blood

Dr. Mornin also stated that “…she died from cardiac arrhythmia, and that her soft drink habit, along with poor nutrition and too much caffeine, contributed to her death” (Fox News, April 19).

It was just a month ago when an organization, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), wrote a letter to the Food and Drug Administration to ban the use of caramel coloring agents containing harmful chemicals such as 4-methylimidazole in soft drinks such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Dr. Pepper, and Whole Foods’ 365 Cola” (Reuters – reporter Anna Yukhanaov, March 6).

(CSPI petitioned against allowing the use of caramel food coloring containing 2 or 4-methylimidazole to the U.S. FDA.)

According to the FDA spokesman Doug Karas, “A consumer would have to consume well over a thousand cans of soda a day to reach the doses administered in the studies that have shown links to cancer in rodents.” – Reuters

This “study” can be read in this scientific research paper, “Toxicity and Carcinogenicity Studies of 4-Methylimidazole in F344/N Rats and B6C3F1 Mice,” written by P.C. Chan, G.D. Hills, G.E. Kissling, and A. Nyska.

Through research and investigation using rodents, “4MI is carcinogenic inducing alveolar/bronchiolar adenoma and carcinoma in male and female mice. 4MI may also induce mononuclear cell leukemia in female rats.”

  • adenoma = benign, tumor
  • carcinoma = malignant, cancerous cells
  • mononuclear cell = white blood cells with one-lobed nucleus
Reported in NPR news, “The Center for Science in the Public Interest petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban ammonia-sulfite caramel color….”
 “This is nothing more than CSPI scare tactics, and their claims are outrageous.” -American Beverage Association (NPR, March 7)

“We did have to change these various inputs of temperature, pressure and the various ingredients we’re using in order to change [4-MI concentrations].” -Ted Nixon, CEO of D.D. Williamson (Supplier of caramel color) –NPR, March 7

There are news floating around that coca-cola or the consumption of caramel coloring is hazardous to our body. However, as FDA mentioned in a press release, a person would have to consume a large amount of soda or 2 or 4-MI, in order to show direct effect to the human body.

Dr. Dan Mornin (pathologist of the deceased Natasha Harris, 30 year old female) also stated that “…it was difficult to confirm this [severe hypokalemia] from post-mortem tests, it was consistent with her symptoms of tiredness and lack of strength and other cases of heavy soft-drink consumers, and it was likely her daily vomiting was due to too much caffeine, medically known as caffeine toxicity.” (Otago Daily Times, April 19)