Restaurant chain Panera Bread is warning customers about its highly caffeinated lemonade drinks after a wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the family of a young woman who died after consuming the beverage.
On its official website, the company is now advising customers that its “Charged Lemonades” contain “about as much caffeine as [Panera’s] Dark Roast Coffee” following the lawsuit.
Panera Bread is also cautioning customers not to drink too much of the beverages, which come in three different flavors and are marketed as a plant-based, “clean caffeine” drink.
On its website, the company asks customers to drink the beverage “in moderation,” and shares disclaimers that it is “not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women.”
The updated warnings come in response to a lawsuit filed by the family of Sarah Katz, a 21-year-old University of Pennsylvania student who died after consuming the highly caffeinated beverage.
According to the lawsuit, obtained by NBC News, the Ivy League student had a heart condition and suffered cardiac arrest, and died after consuming Panera’s Charged Lemonade in 2022.
Ms. Katz was an avid Gatorade drinker, according to the lawsuit.
Warning Is ‘Out of an Abundance of Caution’
However, Panera failed to properly label the highly caffeinated drink—which reportedly contains more caffeine than a 12-ounce Red Bull and a 16-ounce Monster Energy Drink combined—including that it contains ingredients such as guarana extract, another stimulant that can be unsafe in large amounts, the lawsuit states.
This led to Ms. Katz feeling “reasonably confident” that the beverage was a “traditional lemonade and/or electrolyte sports drink containing a reasonable amount of caffeine safe for her to drink,” the lawsuit continues.
This, her family contends, was part of the reason behind Ms. Katz’s death.
“We were saddened to learn this week about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz. While our investigation is ongoing, out of an abundance of caution, we have enhanced our existing caffeine disclosure for these beverages at our bakery-cafes, on our website, and on the Panera app,” a Panera spokesperson told NBC News.
According to Panera’s official website, a 20 fluid ounce Charged Lemonade contains around 260 milligrams of caffeine while a large 30 fl oz Charged Lemonade contains around 390 milligrams.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends healthy adults consume no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, which is the equivalent of roughly four or five cups of coffee, although it notes a “wide variation in both how sensitive people are to the effects of caffeine and how fast they metabolize it.”
Risks of Increased Caffeine Consumption
According to the FDA, various conditions can make some people more sensitive to caffeine’s effects, as can some medications.
Generally speaking, the agency estimates toxic side-effects, such as seizures, can be observed with rapid consumption of around 1,200 milligrams of caffeine, or 0.15 tablespoons of pure caffeine. In worse cases, consuming toxic amounts of caffeine can lead to death, according to the agency, although less intense side effects include insomnia, shaking, anxiety, nausea, headache, and an increased heart rate.
Ms. Katz, according to the lawsuit, was diagnosed at the age of five with long QT syndrome, a heart disorder that results in an abnormal heart rhythm, according to the Cleveland Clinic. As a result, Ms. Katz’s doctors had advised her to avoid consuming large amounts of caffeine—advice which she regularly followed, according to the lawsuit.
Roughly a week before her death, she had purchased an Unlimited Sip Club membership from Panera, meaning she could get unlimited refills of certain drinks, including the “Charged Lemonade” from the restaurant chain, her family said in the lawsuit.
A medical examiner ruled that Ms. Katz ultimately died due to cardiac arrhythmia owing to her underlying long QT syndrome, The Daily Pennsylvanian reports.
An attorney for Ms. Katz’s family, Elizabeth Crawford, a partner at Kline & Specter, PC, told the publication they are hoping to raise awareness about how much caffeine is in the “Charged Lemonade” to prevent further deaths.
Last week, the FDA said it was “saddened” to hear of Ms. Katz’s death and was currently “gathering information” about the incident.
The Epoch Times has contacted Panera Bread for further comment.
From The Epoch Times