David Mitchener, 89, died from excessive calcium build-up in the body after taking too many vitamin D supplements.

A coroner has now warned that risks linked to supplements need to be made clearer.

An official report to prevent future deaths explained that the vitamin levels in the body of the retired businessman from Oxted, Surrey, were at the highest level that could be detected by an NHS lab.

While the health service advises that everyone in the UK should “consider” daily doses of vitamin D during the autumn and winter months, it also warns that supplements come with risk when taken over the recommended amounts.

The report into Mr Mitchener’s death by Surrey Assistant Coroner Jonathan Stevens shared the 89-year-old was admitted to East Surrey Hospital with hypercalcaemia (high calcium levels), but died at the hospital on May 20 last year despite being treated.

A post mortem identified the cause of death as congestive cardiac failure, acute-on-chronic kidney failure, hypercalcaemia, vitamin D toxicity and ischaemic heart disease. 

Checks on a blood sample taken before his death revealed vitamin D levels were at 380, the maximum level recordable by the laboratory. The pensioner had been taking vitamin supplements for at least the preceding nine months.

The coroner raised three “matters of concern” during the inquest, relating to the lack of warnings on the packaging of supplements. These read: “Vitamin supplements can have potentially very serious risks and side effects when taken in excess. Current food labelling requirements do not require these risks and side effects to be written on the packaging. Absence of appropriate warnings and guidance about dosage.”

The coroner’s report to prevent future deaths has been sent to the Food Standards Agency and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), which has a legal duty to respond by March 15 2024. A DHSC spokesperson said: “Our deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of David Mitchener. We will consider the coroner’s findings in full and respond in due course.”

An FSA spokesperson said: “The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is in the process of responding to the coroner following the tragic death of David Mitchener. Policy responsibility for food supplements in relation to England is not directly within the remit of the FSA, which is why the coroner is also seeking responses from the Department of Health and Social Care.”

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