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Panera Bread is being sued by the family of a student who died from drinking the caffeinated lemonade.

Panera Bread updates in-store warnings after student dies from drinking Charged Lemonade

The family of the late Sarah Katz is suing the restaurant company after she drank the energy drink, which has almost the daily maximum dose of caffeine, per the FDA

Following the death of a college student with a heart condition who went into cardiac arrest last year after drinking the Panera Bread caffeinated drink, Charged Lemonade, her family has filed a lawsuit against the bakery-café chain for the death of their daughter, Sarah Katz, as first reported by NBC News.  

Considering the developing situation, Panera said that the brand has updated all of its in-store disclosures about the high caffeine levels of the drink, which now state in bold letters, “Contains Caffeine,” with a warning that states consumers should “use in moderation” and that the drink is not recommended for “children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women.”

Panera’s caffeinated lemonade beverages were released last spring around the same time as the expansion of the Unlimited Sip Club subscription program. Originally called Lemonade Chargers, this beverage was advertised as an alternative to coffee, and comes in flavors like Fuji apple cranberry and mango yuzu. A large portion of the Charged Lemonade mango flavor contains 390 mg of caffeine – or nearly 3.5 12-ounce Red Bull energy drinks — which is just shy of the 400 mg maximum dosage of caffeine that you can safely drink in a day, according to the FDA.

According to Kline and Specter the law firm representing the Katz family, Sarah Katz had been diagnosed as a child with Long QT Type 1 Syndrome, which can cause heart arrhythmia. Although she typically avoided heavily caffeinated beverages, Katz did not know – based on the alleged “inadequate labeling” of the beverage that it contained such high amounts of caffeine. As a result of consuming the Charged Lemonade beverage, Katz went into cardiac arrest twice before she passed away.

“Charged Lemonade sold at Panera stores is believed to be potentially hazardous,” Kline and Specter said on its website. “The lawsuit notes that at the Panera location where Katz got the drink, it was offered side-by-side with less- and non-caffeinated beverages and was not advertised as an energy drink, plus it also contains the stimulant guarana and high levels of sugar. It claims Panera engaged in ‘negligent, reckless, intentional, fraudulent, reckless, and/or outrageous misconduct.’”

According to a media statement released by Panera, the company is in the midst of an “ongoing investigation” into her death and has “enhanced” the existing caffeine disclosures in-store, on its website, and on the Panera app. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated that it is looking into the potential dangers of the beverage:

“The FDA is saddened to hear of the passing of a consumer and as always, takes seriously reports of illnesses or injury from regulated products. The agency monitors the marketplace of FDA-regulated products and takes action when necessary,” an FDA spokesperson told NRN in a statement.

Although wrongful death lawsuits are not particularly uncommon with energy drink companies — both Red Bull and Monster have been sued after their drinks caused cardiac episodes in consumers — it is much less common in restaurant companies. Panera did not respond to request in time for comment about if the company will be altering the recipe for its Charged Lemonade drink or removing them from the menu altogether.

Contact Joanna at [email protected]

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