Two British students were nearly killed after they were accidentally given caffeine equivalent to 300 cups of coffee during a science experiment.

Northumbria University has been fined £400,000 ($695,040) after Alex Rossetto and Luke Parkin had to be rushed to hospital in March and put on dialysis. Yesterday a judge said the two sports science students probably only survived because they were fit and active young men.

The second-year students had volunteered to take part in a test aimed at measuring the effect of caffeine on exercise, but a calculation error meant they were given 100 times the correct dosage. Prosecutor Adam Farrer told Newcastle Crown Court that the pair should have been given 0.3g of caffeine in an orange juice mix, but were given 30g. There is 0.1g in the average cup of coffee.

The court heard the calculation had been done on a mobile phone, with the decimal point being put in the wrong place, and that no risk assessment had been done for the test.

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Farrer said the amount of caffeine consumed "could easily have been fatal" and death has previously been reported after consumption of just 18g. He added the students were left in a "life-threatening condition".

The university, which has more than 30,000 students and a budget of almost £250 million, had switched from using caffeine tablets to powder, which, he said, meant supervision was vital.

Both men have since made a full physical recovery but are also proceeding with their own civil claims.

Judge Edward Bindloss said: "The risk here was death."