« Gritty Little Infusion Sets. | Main | HCPs, Patients, & the Web: An Interview with Dr. Berci Mesko. »

From Abby: Sodatastrophe!

The Great Soda Switch?  Could it happen to you?  Does this sound sensationalistic enough?  ;)  Abby experiences it firsthand.

*   *   *

Don't let Sodatastrophe happen to YOU!(A recent Facebook status update from our favorite diabetes ninja convinced me to write this story. I wasn't going to bring light to it, because I didn't think it happened often, but apparently it can. And does!)

I don’t put much faith into fast food joints. I order safe things (if I even go) that I pretty much know the carb count of, or can look them up online, and I stick to things that are tried-and-true for me.  Basically, I eat the same things, from the same places, when I'm eating fast food. 

So a few weeks back, I was traveling home from a really fun (but blood-sugar-havoc-wreaking) trip to Rhode Island (No, not to see Kerri and the Bird, unfortunately [Editor's Note:  Next time!!]) and we stopped at Panera to soak up some veggies and bread. I sauntered over to the soda machine and put my cup under the Diet Coke (the caffeinated one). What came out, you ask? Bubbly water. No Coke whatsoever. Lame. I walked up to the counter and politely said, "Um, excuse me? The Diet Coke seems to be out of ... Coke. It’s just soda water." And the woman responded, "Oh, really? Okay,  I’ll have someone check on that right now. Sorry!"

And so I proceeded to fill up my cup half way with Diet Caffeine Free Coke. Or so I thought.

Another woman came out about ten minutes later and put a sign on the regular Diet Coke button that said “Out of Order”. Imagine how bummed I was, since we had another two and a half hour car ride back home. So I finished my meal, and filled up my cup with the not-as-tasty caffeine free Diet Coke on my way out.

And then chugged the whole cup in the car.

An hour later, Dexy is screaming at me that I’m 350 mg/dL with an up arrow. To which I responded, "What the heck? I always eat that food at Panera, and I know I bolused right.”

Finger stick confirmed: 372 mg/dL. This is when I realized that I probably didn’t notice the weirdness taste of the must-have-been Regular Coke I’d clearly chugged since it was supposed to be caffeine free and I chalked up the weird taste to that.

A quick stop to a gas station (to pee, of course), a liter of Aquafina, and a hefty correction bolus later, we were back on the road.

Moral of the story: Even the soda you get by yourself from the machine isn’t always a safe bet.

(Disclaimer I freaking love Panera and have been back since. This will not hinder the fact that their Asian Chicken Salad and Broccoli Cheddar Soup are downright delicious. I’m just going to stick to lemon water from now on.  Safer.)


Back in the days before blood glucose meters were invented, we Type I's tested our urine for sugar. Someone way back then suggested to me that fast food (and even restaurant) supposedly diet sodas were often filled with the real thing, so we should bring those urine test strips to eating establishments with us and dip them in the beverages before drinking them. I think you can still buy those strips cheaply. They are called Glucostix, or Clinistix, if memory serves me correctly!

Good to know. I was diagnosed type 1 three days ago. Now I'm just reading diabetes blogs. BTW - yours is great!

Same thing happened to us at the Oregon Zoo. We bought our elephant ears to enjoy at the Zoo Lights - and a Diet Coke (or Pepsi...can't remember) - and it didn't taste right. This was not a self serve dispenser - it came from the employee behind the counter.

A quick check with the blood glucose meter returned HI - and we knew.

Convincing the employee that something was amiss was difficult and she didn't believe us. A check of the hoses in the back room by another employee found the switched lines.

This has definitely happened to me before -- except I drink so much Diet Coke that I can instantly tell if it isn't diet. The regular kind tastes way too sweet, I actually don't like it at all. Once, when I was in high school and working at a Panera Bread in Pennsylvania, they accidentally switched the diet and regular coke tubes and I caught it when I was getting my morning soda (gross, but true lol). Yay diabetic ninja wins! ;)

Can't stand that! But, it happens. We always must be on our toes, against nefarious soda switches!

Yipes! Good to know. I may do a post one day about how my friends always feel the need to tell me that Diet Coke will make me fat. Excuuuuuuuse me. People, these days....

Who "saunters" over to a soda machine? Sassy!

Oh no. That never occurred to me. Now I know to pay closer attention at do-it-yourself soda fountains.

I also want to warn you that the carb count on the chicken and gnocchi soup at Olive Garden is off -- way off -- in the other direction. I bolused for 36 grams of carbs and the soup was closer to 10 grams. I went epic low.

We do our best, use our carb counting apps, and it still doesn't always work. I'm glad you recovered from your wicked high and thanks again for the warning.

This reminds me of the time my summer job boss decided to treat the office to Sonic happy hour. I ordered a Coke Zero (best. diet. drink. ever. --my boyfriend drinks it and he doesn't have the 'betes) and someone else ordered a regular Coke. My boss handed me my drink; I had absolute confidence in her assertion that it was the diet drink and took a couple of swigs, thinking "Wow, Coke Zero really does taste exactly like regular! Dude." Then my boss came back with another drink, clearly marked diet. I had starting drinking someone else's drink. Someone else's pure numbers-killy fast acting sugary drink. Ooops.

Some one said that you can "test" soda by putting putting a drop on a ketone stick or on a normal BG strip. We did it with normal coke and it came back HI really quick! My daughter is 8 and thought this was so funny her pop was HI.

I've worked in restaurants, and, mix ups happen more often than you would think
lemon water is probably a healthier choice, anyway
and, costs less...=)

This happens to me all the freakin time and always on a day when my numbers are thru the roof to begin with. It makes me want to scream. This juggling act that is diabetes is hard enough without an unexpected monkey wrench. Wish they could color code those drinks or something. A magic tester strip would be great too.

I've had this happen - at movie theatres, fast food places - you name it! In most cases I've taken the time to return to the store/theatre and let them know. The managers aren't usually aware that there *might* be a reason why people select diet over regular. I mention it in a polite manner - and am usually fairly well-received.

I once got a diet coke from a soda fountain & it wasn't diet. I knew it. By pure coincidence I knew the manager of the establishment & pulled her aside to let her know. Turns out they had hooked the soda up to the wrong outlets.
It happens, unfortunately. :/

I've tried switching over too. Just hard to do when I LOVE my bubbly caffeine so much!!

This happened to me, I was at chick-Fil-A and they poured us what we thought was diet coke and I've gotten into the habit of asking someone else to test the drink for me before I drink it. But this time my dad was like "It's fine just drink it". So I took a swig, commented on how it tasted funny, and then forced my dad to try it. We spent the next 30-some minutes talking to the people at the register telling them they switched the diet and non-diet out back and my dad proceeded to complain that that's "very dangerous for a diabetic". Lucky for me I had only taken a swig and not the whole thing though.

I'm a Coke lover, so avoiding it is going to be difficult. This post makes me realize that I need to be very careful if I order a soda, and I'll need to get really good at judging the tastes. Stick with bottled soda if possible?

I would have never thought that the fountain drinks that you use yourself would have this issue. That's just crazy. I know my husband has had to give me his drink when we get something fast food and they gave us normal coke instead of diet, but this is pretty crazy. I'm glad you were able to get it under control. I can't have caffeine normally and I think the caffeine free drinks actually have more sugar in them than the normal ones. They just seem sweeter.

That totally sucks! This has happened to me soooo many times before that I test the soda with my meter or a glucose/ketone strip whenever it tastes even remotely weird now. That has helped me prevent a completely unnecessary high countless times! Also we don't have self service for drinks at the fast food places in South Africa, so the mistake can be made by the person filling or taking your order.

That totally sucks! This has happened to me soooo many times before that I test the soda with my meter or a glucose/ketone strip whenever it tastes even remotely weird now. That has helped me prevent a completely unnecessary high countless times! Also we don't have self service for drinks at the fast food places in South Africa, so the mistake can be made by the person filling or taking your order.

Wow that's super sucky! I had no idea soda from those things could be anything but what the labels said!

I had a fast food place tell me it was diet but I knew it was regular. They had their lines crossed and when I told them that they needed to change it the manager said no. I was furious!!

Thanks for the shout out!

I always carry Keto-Diastix urine test strips with me. I prefer fountain-style diet coke to the stuff in bottles, so most of the time I will dip a strip in the soda to make sure it's diet. I've only had a few instances ever where it wasn't diet, but who wants to waste carbs on a drink when you thought you were getting no-carb. If I'm going to ingest that many carbs, I want it to be a chocolate covered donut.

You can also buy just Diastix strips for testing the sugar. But I get the Keto-Diastix because I can use them dual-purpose to test for ketones when necessary and then mostly use them for testing diet coke. They are longish strips and come 50 to a container. I tend to cut about 20 of them to a shorter length and put them in a BG strip container that is smaller and takes up less room in my purse.

I don't really worry about expiration because when it's real soda, they turn dark brown super fast. Very reminiscent of the dark brown 4+ readings that I saw so many of in the 70's and early 80's before home BG testing.

BTW-my insurance covers the cost of these strips.

One of my nephews used to work at Subway and he said there were hookup errors all the time, either due to carelessness or mean spirited-ness.
I can tell right away.
BTW, I was just at Panera yest - their Strawberry Chicken salad was wonderful.

Twice in the past few months at work, I accurately diagnosed the fact that they switched the line on the soda fountain. I watched them pour it so I knew it was supposed to be Diet Pepsi. They are quite impressed by my soda tasting ability. I am quite annoyed by their lack of attention to important details.

THANK GOD Joe hates carbonated drinks. When out, he will only drink water or milk. OY!

Abby, I love Panera too and I also love that they have CF diet coke. It's the one time my little Rocco can actually get something from the pop machines! Also that broccoli cheddar soup is really low carb. Maybe not low fat, but really one thing at a time, right?

My 'soda experience' was about 30 years ago in a Friendly's. Back when they made the soda with syrup and they served Tab.. We only tested urine back then. I was in Jr. High. I went to the nurse's office the next day, and said "I am high" Needless to say, they didn't exactly speak my language and thought I was a different kind of high.. taught them that day :)

Good plug for Panera. We have one not too far from our house. I need to go there and try a soup with bread for dinner. I hate to cook, but do enjoy soup, and am trying to eat lighter these days.

Post a comment

(All comments are moderated. Thanks for your patience!)