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21-year-old died after drinking Panera Charged Lemonade, lawsuit says

A 21-year-old college student died after drinking Panera Bread's Charged Lemonade, and now her parents are suing the company.
21-year-old died after drinking Panera Charged Lemonade, lawsuit says
Posted at 8:28 PM, Oct 23, 2023

The parents of a 21-year-old with a heart condition say Panera Bread's lack of warning about the ingredients in its "Charged Lemonade" ultimately led to their daughter's death, according to a new lawsuit.

The legal complaint, filed Monday morning in Philadelphia, says the beverage was advertised as if it were a traditional drink, not a "dangerous energy drink" containing more caffeine than multiple cans of Red Bull and Monster energy drinks combined.

This failure to warn customers of its content, the lawsuit argues, led to Sarah Katz ingesting the drink on Sept. 10, 2022, unknowingly drinking 390 milligrams of caffeine.

Katz, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, typically abstained from ingesting any caffeine at all due to her Long QT Type 1 diagnosis, which can cause fast and irregular heartbeats which can be exacerbated by ingesting too much caffeine.

But on Sept. 10, 2022, Katz bought a large Charged Lemonade at Panera, "reasonably confident it was a traditional lemonade and/or electrolyte sports drink," the lawsuit said. She soon suffered cardiac arrhythmias and ultimately two cardiac arrests, resulting in her death.

In a statement to NBC News Monday, 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." 

Katz's parents allege Panera is liable and negligent in the beverage's design and manufacturing, and failure to warn about its inherent dangers, particularly those that are cardiac-related.

They allege the charged drink was offered side by side with uncaffeinated or less caffeinated beverages with no warning of its difference in contents, even advertised as a "plant-based and clean" drink with as much caffeine as its Dark Roast coffee, the lawsuit states alongside photos of the store's menu and drink dispensers.

But according to its nutrition facts, Panera's Charged Lemonade contains 260 milligrams of caffeine in a regular size and 390 milligrams in a large, which is the size Katz ordered. The caffeine content of a dark roast coffee from the company contains 268 milligrams in its largest size, which has as many fluid ounces as a regular size lemonade, according to the lawsuit.

Additionally, Panera's Charged Lemonade contains multiple other stimulants, including coffee extract and guarana extract, and 82 to 124 grams of sugar, the latter of which is equivalent to nearly 30 teaspoons of sugar.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says 300 milligrams is typically a safe amount of caffeine for "healthy adults" to consume each day, and it recommends limiting sugars to 10% of total calories eaten in a day, meaning 50 grams for a 2,000 calorie diet.

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