A British woman fell into a coma and almost died after she had an allergic reaction to a sugar-free Pepsi Max, the Daily Mail reports.
Elizabeth Perkins, a 30-year-old mother of two from Derbyshire, said she was accidentally served the Pepsi instead of a naturally sweetened Coca Cola, triggering a life-threatening reaction to the artificial sweeteners in the diet soda.
"I'd asked for a full fat coke, and stressed that it had to be full fat as usual to the bartender," she recalled. "But once I took my first sip and straight away, I knew it tasted strange, and I could feel the usual sickness start, like I was going to be sick. I instantly felt dizzy and felt the room go dark as my body tried to fight off the allergic reaction."
Perkins said a friend guided her to a chair before she passed out. She was eventually rushed to the hospital, where she slipped into a coma for three days.
"It had taken three days for it to work its way out of my system — it was terrifying," she said.
Perkins's rare allergy is genetic, according to the Daily Mail. Both her sons — Matthew, 6, and Jacob, 2 — are not immune to sweeteners.
"We don't have the enzymes to break down the sweeteners, so it is like instant poison and we will immediately start vomiting and becoming dizzy if we have it," Perkins explained. "In extreme cases, we could end up in a coma."
At such young ages, the two children have already had their share of life-threatening experiences, the mother added. Jacob was reportedly diagnosed with a benign tumor, and Matthew allegedly suffered a water infection months later. In Matthew's case, Perkins said she had to drive around for hours to find medication for him because "most places don't supply the sugared versions as it's no longer cost effective for the manufacturers."
"It breaks my heart, especially for the boys," she said. "They can't even have birthday cakes like their friends because the icing contains the artificial sugars."
Perkins said the United Kingdom's sugar tax has made it harder for her to find products that are right for her family. The sugar tax, also known as the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (SDIL), was introduced in 2016 and has been imposed on producers of sugary soft drinks, such as Coke and Red Bull.
"Since the sugar tax came into effect, everything seems to contain the dreaded artificial sugars," Perkins said. "When I asked in the bar, I made sure to make myself explicit but the problem is most people don't seem to see the difference. To me, they taste different but it seems not everyone realizes that."
The 30-year-old said she and her children have had to skip social outings as a result.
"It feels like we're penalized for needing the sugared versions of things when really, it's a necessity — we need it to survive," she said.