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Family sues Panera Bread over alleged ‘Charged Lemonade’ saying student died from caffeine-laden drink


Panera Bread customers will now see a new warning label when ordering ‘Charged Lemonade’ drinks thanks to a recent lawsuit filed by the family of Sarah Katz, a 21-year-old University of Pennsylvania student. The family alleges that the restaurant improperly labeled the Charged Lemonade drink, which ultimately led to Katz experiencing cardiac arrest and, tragically, her death in 2022. The family filed the lawsuit against the chain restaurant in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County.

Katz had a heart condition known as long QT syndrome type 1, which made her sensitive to highly caffeinated beverages. According to the suit, Katz collapsed hours after consuming the drink, which contained more caffeine than energy drinks like Monster or Red Bull, on September 10, 2022. She fell into cardiac arrest and was transported to a hospital where she suffered another cardiac arrest and died. Katz had a heart condition called long QT syndrome type 1 which caused an irregular heart rhythm, so she avoided highly caffeinated drinks.

The lawsuit said that a large Charged Lemonade has 390 mg of caffeine in it, just 10 mg shy of the 400-milligram daily maximum advised by the FDA. The lawsuit alleges the drink “was not advertised as an ‘energy drink'” and the labeling failed to disclose the abnormally high caffeine content. The Charged Lemonade was displayed in the Philadelphia Panera store that Katz went to alongside the chain’s other non-caffeinated and/or less caffeinated drinks, says the suit. The lawsuit also points out inconsistencies in Panera’s advertising and nutritional information regarding caffeine content in the lemonades.

Panera has since changed labels on the product, saying in a statement that they had “enhanced our existing caffeine disclosure for these beverages” out of “an abundance of caution,” adding that the company was “saddened to learn this week about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz.”

The chain’s website advertises the “charged sips” under a menu section with a description reading, “Naturally flavored, plant-based, and Clean with about as much caffeine as our Dark Roast coffee.” Clicking one of the three available flavors leads to a page with an image of the lemonade overlayed with a large “contains caffeine” sign at the bottom. The “about” section again says the drinks are, “Naturally flavored, plant-based, with about as much CAFFEINE as our Dark Roast Coffee.” Following this is an additional warning that reads: “Use in moderation. NOT RECOMMENDED FOR children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women.” However, ad material for the lemonades still compares caffeine content to that of the brand’s coffee.

In a prior statement to the media, a Panera spokesperson said: “We were very saddened to learn this morning about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz, and our hearts go out to her family. At Panera, we strongly believe in transparency around our ingredients. We will work quickly to thoroughly investigate this matter.”

A disclosure about the drink can now be found on Panera Bread’s website stating the Charged Lemonade drinks should be used “in moderation” and that it has “about as much caffeine as our Dark Roast coffee.”


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