Panera faces lawsuit after student who drank caffeinated 'Charged Lemonade' dies

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A 21-year-old Ivy League student with a heart condition died after consuming Panera’s caffeinated “Charged Lemonade,” according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by her parents.

In September 2022, Sarah Katz, a University of Pennsylvania student, suffered a cardiac arrest while dining with her friends after drinking the restaurant’s caffeinated beverage containing more caffeine, 390 milligrams, than three cans of Red Bull, the claim said.

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The legal complaint — filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas — called the beverage a “dangerous energy drink,” saying the restaurant chain failed to warn consumers about its ingredients, court documents first obtained by NBC News showed.

The young student “consumed the Panera Charged Lemonade, reasonably confident it was a traditional lemonade” or an “electrolyte sports drink containing a reasonable amount of caffeine safe for her to drink,” the complaint said.

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At five years old, Katz was diagnosed with a heart condition called long QT syndrome type 1, causing fast and chaotic heartbeats. She managed the symptoms by taking medication and avoiding energy drinks as per her doctor’s recommendation.

Sarah Katz suffered a cardiac arrest while dining with her friends at Panera
Sarah Katz suffered a cardiac arrest while dining with her friends at Panera Photo by The SADS Foundation

Victoria Rose Conroy, her college roommate, told NBC that Katz “was very, very vigilant about what she needed to do to keep herself safe.”

“I guarantee if Sarah had known how much caffeine this was, she never would have touched it with a 10-foot pole,” Conroy added.

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The restaurant’s Charged Lemonade was “offered side-by-side with all of Panera’s non-caffeinated and/or less caffeinated drinks” and was advertised as a “plant-based and clean” drink with as much caffeine as its dark roast coffee, according to photos of the menu and beverage dispensers.

Additionally, the lemonade contains another stimulant, guarana extract, that has the equivalent of almost 30 teaspoons of sugar.

“I think everyone thinks lemonade is safe. And really, this isn’t lemonade at all. It’s an energy drink that has lemon flavour,” Elizabeth Crawford, the attorney representing Katz’s parents, told NBC. “It should have an adequate warning.”

The attorney wants to ensure that the energy drink includes a warning or is removed from Panera’s menu.

“It’s a dangerous energy drink and it’s not advertised that way. We want to make sure this does not happen to someone else,” she told CNN.

A Panera spokesperson said they were “very saddened to learn about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz,” and “strongly believe[s] in transparency around our ingredients.”

Katz was a Red Cap ambassador with the American Heart Association (AHA), where she taught CPR in high schools and underserved communities, the Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes foundation wrote in memory of the student.

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Originally posted 2023-10-24 17:59:53.