In a heart-wrenching incident, a young Ivy League student with a congenital heart condition, Sarah Katz, tragically passed away after consuming Panera Bread’s ‘Charged Lemonade.’ A lawsuit has been filed by her parents against the company, alleging that the beverage contained more caffeine than a combination of one Red Bull and one Monster energy drink.1
The Tragic Incident
Sarah Katz’s close friend, Victoria Rose Conroy, described the tragic incident and Katz’s meticulous approach to her health.
“I guarantee if Sarah had known how much caffeine this was, she never would have touched it with a 10-foot pole.”
Panera responded with empathy and a commitment to investigate the matter.
The lawsuit highlights the high caffeine content in ‘Charged Lemonade,’ raising questions about the need for comprehensive warnings to safeguard consumer health. The lawsuit argues that Panera failed to appropriately warn customers about the highly caffeinated nature of ‘Charged Lemonade.’
Elizabeth Crawford, a partner at the law firm representing Katz’s family, emphasized the need for adequate warnings.
“I think everyone thinks lemonade is safe. And really, this isn’t lemonade at all. It’s an energy drink that has a lemon flavor.”
“It should have an adequate warning.”
Katz had been diagnosed with Long QT Type 1 Syndrome (LQT1) since the age of five. This condition can cause abnormal heart rhythms, often triggered by exercise or stress. Katz refrained from consuming energy drinks and highly caffeinated beverages due to her heart condition. Instead, she relied on electrolyte drinks like Gatorade.
“She was very, very vigilant about what she needed to do to keep herself safe,” said Victoria Rose Conroy
The lawsuit contends that the 390 milligrams of caffeine in a large ‘Charged Lemonade’ is significantly more than any size of Panera’s dark roast coffees.
The Food and Drug Administration advises healthy adults to consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine daily.2 While caffeine can pose health risks for individuals like Katz, this incident highlights the importance of understanding how ‘Charged Lemonade’ compares to other popular drinks in terms of caffeine content.
“The lawsuit alleges the Charged Lemonade is “defective in design because it is a dangerous energy drink…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.” – Excerpt from the lawsuit
Panera’s Caffeine Content Comparison and Response
Panera’s dark roast coffee ranges from 161 milligrams in a small cup to 268 milligrams in a large cup, with the latter being 20 fluid ounces. This startling caffeine content in ‘Charged Lemonade’ is higher than that found in standard cans of Red Bull and Monster energy drinks combined.
It’s important to note that while caffeine is generally safe for many, certain medical conditions, including congenital heart issues like Katz’s, can make caffeine consumption risky. The delicate balance between offering consumers a choice and ensuring their safety
In response to the tragic incident and the subsequent lawsuit, Panera Bread has taken steps to add signage for ‘Charged Lemonade.’ These new warning signs have been displayed in Panera’s restaurants and offer some crucial information about the beverage.3 The signs now state that ‘Charged Lemonade’ contains caffeine and should be consumed in moderation, with specific recommendations against it for children, individuals sensitive to caffeine, and pregnant or nursing women.
While this is a step toward providing more information to customers, there are concerns that the signage doesn’t provide enough context about the caffeine content of the drink. Consumers must have a clear understanding of the potential risks associated with ‘Charged Lemonade,’ especially given its unsuspectingly high caffeine levels and its original placement side-by-side with less caffeinated beverages.
Elizabeth Crawford, the attorney representing the Katz family, commented on the signage:
“I’m happy that we are moving in the direction of making a change, but I consider these baby steps.”
Panera’s commitment to enhancing caffeine disclosure is a positive development, but the need for comprehensive warnings and a clear distinction between ‘Charged Lemonade’ and regular beverages remains paramount. Ensuring consumer safety and awareness is a shared responsibility and one that should be taken seriously.
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- “Family sues Panera Bread after college student who drank Charged Lemonade dies.” NBC News. Elizabeth Chuck. October 23, 2023.
- “Lawsuit claims Panera’s ‘Charged Lemonade’ led to student’s death.” Yahoo. Cassie Buchman. October 28, 2023.
- “Panera adds warnings about caffeinated lemonade after suit over student’s death.” The Guardian. Nina Lakhani. October 29, 2023.