21 Year Old Woman's Death Linked to Panera Bread’s Charged Lemonade Drink

Philadelphia, PA – A devastating incident involving a 21-year-old woman with a pre-existing heart condition has prompted a wrongful death lawsuit against the popular restaurant chain, Panera Bread. The lawsuit alleges that Sarah Katz tragically lost her life after consuming a heavily caffeinated energy drink, which she may have mistakenly believed was regular lemonade. The incident occurred in September 2022, when Sarah was out with friends and consumed what she thought was a harmless beverage called “Charged Lemonade.” Unfortunately, this choice would lead to a series of events that ended in her untimely passing.

Sarah Katz’s parents are now seeking both compensatory and punitive damages as they grapple with the loss of their daughter. Panera Bread issued a statement expressing their condolences, pledging to investigate the matter thoroughly, and emphasizing their commitment to transparency regarding ingredient information.

The autopsy report, obtained by CNN, indicates that Sarah’s cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia due to long QT syndrome (LQTS). LQTS is a medical condition characterized by irregular and potentially life-threatening rapid heartbeats, as explained by the Mayo Clinic. Sarah had been diagnosed with LQTS since the age of five and had managed her symptoms with medication while also limiting her caffeine intake, as noted in the lawsuit.

Many energy drinks on the market contain high levels of caffeine, added sugars, vitamins, and other stimulants. Panera’s “Charged Lemonade” also contains caffeine, sugar, coffee extract, and guarana extract, both of which are sources of caffeine. Health professionals have cautioned against the consumption of energy drinks by young individuals, as they can lead to dangerous side effects such as dehydration, irregular heartbeats, and even heart failure. Individuals with certain heart conditions, like LQTS, may be particularly sensitive to the stimulating effects of these beverages and more susceptible to adverse outcomes.

However, the lawsuit asserts that Sarah Katz believed the “Charged Lemonade” she consumed was a traditional lemonade or an electrolyte sports drink with a reasonable amount of caffeine, which she deemed safe for her condition. Panera is accused of misleading consumers by not adequately labeling “Charged Lemonade” as an energy drink in their stores. The lawsuit alleges that Panera marketed and advertised the product as “Plant-based and Clean with as much caffeine as our Dark Roast Coffee.” This marketing tactic failed to specify the caffeine equivalence between “Charged Lemonade” and their Dark Roast Coffee, leaving consumers without a clear reference point.

Online, Panera claims that “Charged Lemonade” has a caffeine content comparable to their Dark Roast coffee, with a large-sized serving containing approximately 390 mg of caffeine. The US Food and Drug Administration generally recommends a daily caffeine intake of around 400 milligrams for healthy adults, equivalent to about four or five cups of coffee. Compounding the issue, “Charged Lemonade” is prepared “in-house” by Panera employees, meaning that its caffeine content may vary, posing an additional safety concern, according to the lawsuit.

Elizabeth Crawford, the attorney representing Sarah Katz’s grieving parents, emphasized their desire to see warning labels on the drink or its removal from store shelves. She stressed the dangers of “Charged Lemonade” and its failure to be accurately advertised as an energy drink. The family’s goal is to ensure that no one else experiences a tragedy like this in the future.

This heartbreaking incident underscores the importance of clear and accurate labeling for the safety of consumers, especially those with underlying health conditions. Sarah Katz’s story serves as a poignant reminder of the potential risks associated with miscommunication surrounding caffeinated beverages.