A student died after she drank a large cup of Panera Bread’s Charged Lemonade, which contained more caffeine than Red Bull and Monster.
Parents Warn Against Panera’s Charged Drinks
A lawsuit claims a student from an Ivy League university with a heart condition passed away after drinking a 30-fluid-ounce large cup of Panera Bread’s Charged Lemonade.
The lawsuit, filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas and first reported by NBC News, labels the drink as a “hazardous energy beverage” and says Panera failed to adequately inform consumers about its ingredients.
The suit has been initiated on behalf of the parents of Sarah Katz, a 21-year-old student at the University of Pennsylvania.
Katz, who had long QT syndrome type 1, a heart condition, had heeded her doctors’ advice to avoid energy drinks. Responding to the lawsuit, a Panera spokesperson released a statement expressing their condolences and promises to investigate.
Katz purchased the Charged Lemonade at a Philadelphia Panera Bread restaurant on September 10, 2022. Hours later, she experienced cardiac arrest, according to her roommate and close friend, Victoria Rose Conroy.
Conroy noted that Katz was meticulous about her health and would never have consumed the beverage without knowing its caffeine content.
The Charged Lemonade was offered alongside non-caffeinated and less caffeinated drinks.
It was promoted as a “plant-based and clean” beverage, with caffeine equivalent to the restaurant’s dark roast coffee, as shown by menu and beverage dispenser photos in the store, included in the lawsuit.
However, the large Charged Lemonade contained 390 milligrams of caffeine, exceeding the caffeine content of any size of Panera’s dark roast coffee, along with guarana extract and the equivalent of nearly 30 teaspoons of sugar, according to the complaint.
The level of caffeine was higher than the combined caffeine content of standard cans of Red Bull and Monster energy drinks.
The lawsuit states the Charged Lemonade is “defective in design” as a dangerous energy drink, lacking warnings about the possible adverse effects, including life-threatening impacts on blood pressure, heart rate, and brain function.
Katz, who had been diagnosed with long QT syndrome since the age of 5, managed her condition with medication and regular doctor visits, during which her health remained normal.
According to Dr. Charles Berul, an electrophysiologist at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, caffeine can be consumed in moderation by people with long QT syndrome. However, some studies suggest that energy drinks that combine caffeine with other ingredients, like taurine, might pose additional risks.
Katz had purchased an Unlimited Sip Club membership from Panera, allowing unlimited drink refills, about a week and a half before her death. On the day of her death, she purchased a Charged Lemonade and collapsed hours later at a friend’s birthday celebration. Despite medical intervention, she went into cardiac arrest again and died.
A medical examiner’s report identified Katz’s cause of death as cardiac arrhythmia due to long QT syndrome, with no mention of the beverage as a contributing factor.
Panera’s Charged Lemonade, available in regular and large sizes, contains caffeine ranging from 260 milligrams to 390 milligrams, while the dark roast coffee has caffeine content ranging from 161 milligrams to 268 milligrams.
On its website, Panera referred to its Charged Lemonades as “the ultimate energy drink,” although it was allegedly not marketed as such in-store at the time of Katz’s incident.
Katz’s parents, who are focused on raising awareness about the dangers of Panera’s Charged Lemonade, hope to prevent similar tragedies from happening to others.
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