Email claims that children have died after consuming Diet Coke and Mentos together. The message includes photographs of the violent reaction that occurs when Diet Coke and Mentos are combined.
The reaction is real – Reports of resulting deaths are unsubstantiated and probably untrue.
During 2007, a new version of the warning message began circulating formatted as a PowerPoint slide show (details in commentary below).
One year before the same accident happened with another boy in Brazil ..
The explosive reaction shown in these photographs is real and very well documented. In fact, the Diet Coke and Mentos experiment has taken the Internet by storm in recent months.
There are hundreds of videos of such experiments posted on YouTube and elsewhere. Even the companies involved have embraced the phenomenon and have reaped the rewards of a great deal of free advertising for their respective products. Other brands of soft-drink (soda) also cause the reaction, but most observers agree that Diet Coke works best.
Discovery Channel’s “MythBusters” also conducted such experiments in one of their episodes and explored the scientific causes of the reaction.
An article about the episode on Zap2it.com explains:
According to Hyneman (he’s the mustachioed MythBuster), it’s a process called “nucleation,” in which the particular chemistry of the Mentos candy interacts with the chemistry of the carbonated Diet Coke, causing the carbon dioxide gas, or CO2, to suddenly come out of suspension in the liquid and make a break for freedom.
Thus, there is certainly no dispute that the experiment shown in the above photographs is genuine. However, I have found no credible reports of deaths caused by consuming Mentos and Diet Coke, in Brazil or elsewhere. Given the unprecedented popularity of Mentos and Coke experiments, there would surely be news reports and consumer warnings if serious or fatal injuries had occurred.
One video published on YouTube ostensibly shows an experimenter being seriously injured after consuming a Mentos and Diet Coke combination. However, the supposed injury was faked. In fact, the video raised such concern among viewers that its makers soon released a second video in which the completely unharmed experimenter showed “what really happened”.
That said, consuming a Mentos and Coke combination, especially in large amounts, could certainly be very unpleasant and could possibly cause harm. There is not currently enough evidence to declare the practice safe. EepyBird.com notes:
So is it dangerous to drink soda and eat Mentos? Well, a lot of the fizz goes away as you drink. Then when bubbles are released in your stomach, your stomach can expand a bit, and it also has ways of releasing excess pressure. Do not, repeat, do not be stupid and test the limits of your stomach. Don’t even think about it.
At the very least, it could cause projectile vomiting to rival “The Exorcist’s” Reagan and leave the person feeling quite ill. It would be wise to consume your coke and mentors separately to prevent unexpected and messy results. In the interests of safety, oral Mentos and Diet Coke experiments should be avoided. On the other hand, non-oral experiments can be fun, interesting and educational. Naturally, children conducting such experiments should be well supervised by responsible adults.
In mid-2007, I began receiving submissions of a Microsoft PowerPoint version of the warning message. The slide show is based around the same collection of photographs used in the earlier version. The text in the PowerPoint slide show version is included below:
In April last year a child, aged 10, a pupil of primary school Dante Alighieri from São Paulo, Brazil, died without any prior medical problems. He colapsed during a class.
He was offered first aid, but he died in a few minutes during the transport to hospital.
Bloated stomach, death due to suffocation.
The obduction established that his condition was caused by consumation of substances, that caused an explosion in his stomach. A bottle of Coca Cola Light and subsequently a well known Mentos menthol sweet. “The cause of the child’s death was the mixture of the substances in the two foods.”
Alexander B. Mergenthaler from the chemical institute l’Institut USP (France) verified and practically proved that the substance from Coca Cola Light, Acesulfame K INS930, mixed together with the Menthos sweets, releases a deadly chemical reaxtion known as Ta9V4. In a very short time this combination produces and releases huge quantities of gas under high pressure – an explosion!
Even after this event and reports in various means of media provoked apalled public reaction, Coca-Cola and Mentos have issued no public statements.
Forward this e-mail and you might save someones life.
The slide show claims that the event had been reported in the media and provoked a public reaction. However, as with the earlier version, I have seen no news reports at all about a child dying as a result of consuming Coke and Mentos.
If such a death had occurred, it is highly improbable that the incident would have gone unreported in the media, not only in Brazil but also around the world.
Moreover, the only references to Alexander B. Mergenthaler, the scientist mentioned in the message, appear to be those related to the spurious warning message itself. And, although Acesulfame is a real artificial sweetener, I could find no information about it being associated with a deadly chemical reaction called “Ta9V4”.
It seems apparent that someone has seen fit to embellish the original version by inventing a more detailed back-story and formatting it as a PowerPoint presentation. In spite of these enhancements, the warning still contains no credible evidence to support the claims of a Coke and Mentos related death.