Death By Chocolate: Five Freaky Food-Related Deaths

By now, the whole world has heard the sad tale of the gentleman in New Jersey who fell into a vat of melted chocolate and drowned yesterday. The factory worker at the Cocoa Services Inc. plant was loading chunks of raw chocolate into the vat to be melted when he slipped and fell into the vat, where he was knocked unconscious by a rotating paddle and subsequently drowned.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the first nor will it be the last bizarre food-related death throughout history. From the King of Sweden, Adolf Frederick, whose stomach burst after he ate a meal consisting of (in part) of lobster, caviar, saurkraut, cabbage soup, smoked herring, champagne and 14 buns filled with marzipan and milk, to the famous stuntman Bobby Leach, who died after slipping on an orange peel and falling so hard that his leg was broken and had to be amputated, which led to an infection that ultimately killed him, food has often played a Rube Goldberg-esque role in many deaths.

Below the jump are five of the strangest food-related deaths of all time.

  1. It sounds like an urban legend: A girl kisses her boyfriend and is dead within the hour. But this strange tale really happened to a Canadian girl, Christina Duforges, whose boyfriend had eaten a peanut butter sandwich nine hours earlier. Duforges' sensitive peanut allergy caused her to go into anaphylactic shock and die, without actually eating peanuts at all. And apparently it is (see comments below). Because no one has ever died from peanut allergies before. Moving on.
  2. We've all heard the myth that Mama Cass of the Mamas and the Papas died by choking to death on a ham sandwich (and the even worse joke about that and Karen Carpenter). But countless people have choked to death on their food since the dawn of time, including Robert McGlen, who choked to death on a cheese sandwich at his home in England. It didn't help that he was drunk at the time.
  3. Of course, alcohol has also played many a role in deaths throughout the years. And while many people fantasize about swimming in beer, that fantasy probably doesn't extend to being caught in a beer flood. But that's exactly what happened when 3,500 barrels of beer ruptured and flooded a brewery in London in 1814, killing nine people. As the article points out, America had our own similarly devastating flood in 1919, when a molasses flood killed 21 people in Boston.
  4. Alcohol doesn't have to be consumed to kill you, though. Just ask the Russian microbiologist Leonid Strachunsky, who was mysteriously killed in his Moscow hotel room by being hit over the head with a champagne bottle.
  5. Objects don't always have to be hard to deal a fatal blow; sometimes, it just takes a lot of one very soft thing. In this case, lettuce. Sheila Kay Ross, a dockworker at an Arizona grocery store, was crushed to death by a truckload of lettuce, and her body was not found for three days. The only small comfort: The grocery store confirmed that they destroyed the lettuce afterwards.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Katharine Shilcutt