A British university has been fined after two students were given potentially fatal doses of caffeine in a botched experiment.
Instead of being served 0.3 grams of caffeine, the Northumbria University students were mistakenly given doses of 30 grams ― equivalent to 300 cups of coffee, the BBC reported.
“It was 100 times the dosage they should have been given,” Prosecutor Adam Farrer told a Newcastle Crown Court on Monday. The caffeine “could easily have been fatal,” he said.
Both participants in the 2015 study, identified as Alex Rossetto and Luke Parkin, immediately had “violent” side effects after taking the powdered caffeine and had to undergo kidney dialysis, ITV reported. They eventually recovered, though Rossetto has reported short-term memory loss.
“If they had not been admitted to intensive care immediately for treatment, they could have died from caffeine overdose,” Farrer said, according to ITV.
Farrer accused university staff of not being “experienced or competent enough” to carry out the experiment, which was supposed to test the effects of caffeine on athletic training.
“The university took no steps to make sure the staff knew how to do it,” Farrer said, according to the BBC.
A judge fined the school the equivalent of $505,400 for the blunder.
The university said it was “genuinely sorry” in a statement obtained by The Sun.
“This was an isolated incident,” the statement said. “We reacted promptly to what took place.”
An average cup of coffee contains about 0.1 grams of caffeine. As little as 18 grams has proven fatal, Farrer said.
The Food and Drug Administration warns about the dangers of powdered caffeine on its website and advises that just one teaspoon is roughly equivalent to 28 cups of coffee.