When 30-year-old Natasha Harris of Invercargill, New Zealand, died of a heart attack three years ago, her family suspected the cause of death was linked to her extreme fondness for Coca-Cola.
Drinking as much as 10 litres (2.5 gallons) a day left the mother of eight with myriad health problems, including cardiac arrhythmia, rotten teeth, and a full-blown addiction.
"(She would) go crazy if she ran out... she would get the shakes, withdrawal symptoms, be angry, on edge and snappy," Harris's mother-in-law said last year.
Harris's husband, Christopher Hodgkinson, recalled how his wife's health quickly deteriorated in the months prior to her death. "She had no energy and was feeling sick all the time ... She would get up and vomit in the morning," he said.
Coca-Cola has persistently maintained that, despite her daily consumption of twice the recommended caffeine intake and over 11 times the acceptable amount of sugar, Harris's death could not be definitively linked to her Coke habit.
But a coroner report released today claims to have done just that.
Wrote coroner David Crerar: "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."
Coca-Cola, however, continues to stand by its initial claim:
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.
While Crerar agrees that Coca-Cola should not be held responsible "for the health of consumers who drink unhealthy quantities of the product," he does suggest in his report that Coca-Cola consider adding labels to its drinks warning consumers against the hazards of excessive consumption.
[screengrab via TVNZ]