Panera is being sued by the parents of a college student with a heart condition who died after drinking its Charged Lemonade, which the lawsuit alleges contains more caffeine than Red Bull and Monster Energy Drink combined and no consumer warning.
The lawsuit claims that Sarah Katz, 21, believed Charged Lemonade was a “traditional lemonade and/or electrolyte sports drink containing a reasonable amount of caffeine safe for her to drink.” On Sept. 10, 2022, the University of Pennsylvania student drank the Charged Lemonade and then suffered cardiac arrest, leading to her death.
As a child, Katz had been diagnosed with the heart condition Long QT Type 1 Syndrome. Throughout her life she avoided energy drinks and heavily caffeinated drinks which could “adversely affect the heart’s rhythm” in people with the syndrome, the lawsuit states.
But Panera allegedly failed to alert consumers to the caffeine levels in its Charged Lemonade, according to the lawsuit, which says the chain advertises the drink as “plant-based and clean with as much caffeine as our dark roast coffee.”
“Panera Charged Lemonade does not declare the total quantity of caffeine from all sources on the container itself — rather, it merely compares it to an unspecified size of Panera Dark Roast coffee, a beverage which does not contain the added stimulants of sugar and guarana,” the lawsuit alleges. In reality, the beverage “is a dangerous energy drink,” the suit claims
“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 said in a statement issued Monday in response to the lawsuit. “At Panera, we strongly believe in transparency around our ingredients. We will work quickly to thoroughly investigate this matter.”
Panera serves different flavors of Charged Lemonade, such as Strawberry Lemon Mint Charged Lemonade and Mango Yuzu Citrus Charged Lemonade. On its website, the fast-food bakery-cafe chain includes the caffeine content for the drinks. A 20-ounce serving of the Strawberry Lemon Mint flavor drink contains 260 milligrams of caffeine, for example.
Other beverages have recently been called out for their caffeine levels, with New York Sen. Charles Schumerearlier this year to investigate PRIME, a drink co-founded by YouTube star Logan Paul, for its high level of the stimulant. In that case, the drink, which is popular with teens and preteens, includes 200 milligrams of caffeine, or about two Red Bulls.
Accusations of exorbitant levels of caffeine
The Panera lawsuit claims that a 30-ounce serving of Charged Lemonade contains as much as 390 milligrams of caffeine, more than the combined caffeine levels of a Red Bull and Monster Energy Drink, which together have about 274 milligrams of the stimulant.
Panera markets the product as a juice beverage, and serves it next to other non-caffeinated juice drinks, the lawsuit claims.
“Consumers are not provided a factual basis for understanding it is an energy drink containing exorbitant amounts of caffeine, caffeine sources, stimulants and sugar,” it alleges.
Because of the highly caffeinated contents of the Charged Lemonade, Panera should have known that it poses the threat of injury or death to some consumers, including children, pregnant and breastfeeding women and caffeine-sensitive individuals, such as those with heart conditions like Katz, the lawsuit claims.
Katz was studying international relations and health and societies with a minor in East Asian languages and civilizations at UPenn, and had taught CPR in high schools and underserved communities. She also worked as a research assistant at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.