On September 10, 2022, a 21-year-old college student purchased Panera Bread’s Charged Lemonade. Just hours later, she went into cardiac arrest and tragically passed away. Now, the late student’s parents are taking legal action against Panera, claiming the restaurant chain doesn’t adequately warn consumers of the high caffiene content of the drink.
The wrongful death lawsuit, filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on Monday and obtained by NBC, claims the beverage is a “dangerous energy drink” allegedly lacking sufficient warning about its ingredients.
Sarah Katz, a University of Pennsylvania student with long QT syndrome type 1, a heart condition, had been advised by her doctors to avoid energy drinks. However, when Katz purchased the beverage, it was displayed alongside Panera’s non-caffeinated and less-caffeinated options and marketed as a “plant-based and clean” drink, the lawsuit states, adding that Katz was “reasonably confident” the lemonade contained a “reasonable amount of caffeine” that was safe for her consumption.
Panera’s Charged Lemonades come in three flavors, and a large size contains over 300 milligrams of caffeine. Smith Collection/Gado | Getty Images.
“She was very, very vigilant about what she needed to do to keep herself safe,” Victoria Rose Conroy, Katz’s roommate, told NBC. “I guarantee if Sarah had known how much caffeine this was, she never would have touched it with a 10-foot pole.”
A large size of the beverage, which Katz purchased the day of her passing, contains a startling 390 milligrams of caffeine, per Panera’s website. It also contains guarana extract, another stimulant, and the equivalent of nearly 30 teaspoons of sugar. The lawsuit emphasizes that 390 milligrams of caffeine far surpasses the caffeine level of a standard Red Bull (148 milligrams) and Monster (86 milligrams) energy drink combined.
According to the FDA, “healthy adults” can have up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. However, it does emphasize that those with certain health conditions should consult their doctor.
Elizabeth Crawford, the attorney representing Katz’s parents, told CNN that they intend to make sure the drink has a warning or is “taken off the shelf.”
“It’s a dangerous energy drink, and it’s not advertised that way,” she added. “We want to make sure this does not happen to someone else.”
“These unregulated beverages include no warning of any potentially dangerous effects, even the life-threatening effects on blood pressure, heart rate, and/or brain function,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit emphasizes the need for clearer warning labels and greater transparency about the contents of products like Panera’s Charged Lemonade.
“We were very saddened to learn this morning about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz, and our hearts go out to her family,” a Panera spokesperson told Entrepreneur. “At Panera, we strongly believe in transparency around our ingredients. We will work quickly to thoroughly investigate this matter.”