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Panera Bread’s Charged Lemonade Costs Two People Their Lives

Lemons+on+a+pale+background.
Anglélica Echeverry
Lemons on a pale background.

Two people have died after drinking Panera Bread’s Charged Lemondates. Sarah Katz, 21, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, and Dennis Brown, 46, a Florida resident, passed away this October after drinking the caffeinated drink. Both people had pre-existing heart conditions, and their families are suing the soup-and-salad chain for the lack of proper advertising of the caffeine content (New York Times). The caffeine levels in the three lemonades (Blood Orange Charged Splash, Strawberry Lemon Mint, and Mango Yuzu Citrus) range from 260 milligrams in the regular size to 390 milligrams in the large, 30-ounce size. In comparison, their dark roast coffee ranges from only 161 milligrams in a small cup to 268 milligrams in a large cup. The drinks also contain guarana, another stimulant (NBC).

Panera issued statements after both deaths. Their first statement stressed that they are working to make the caffeine counts more transparent to consumers.  “We were saddened to learn this week about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz. While our investigation is ongoing, out of an abundance of caution, we have enhanced our existing caffeine disclosure for these beverages at our bakery-cafes, on our website and on the Panera app,” a Panera spokesperson said (NBC). After Brown’s death, Panera issued a similar comment, saying “Panera expresses our deep sympathy for Mr. Brown’s family… based on our investigation we believe his unfortunate passing was not caused by one of the company’s products. We view this lawsuit, which was filed by the same law firm as a previous claim, to be equally without merit” (New York Times). 

The company has changed their language to state that the Charged Lemonade contains caffeine, should be consumed in moderation, and is not recommended for children, nursing or pregnant women, or those especially sensitive to caffeine. However, Philadelphia lawyer  Elizabeth Crawford, who is representing Katz’s family in this case, is saying this new verbiage is not enough. “It’s misleading in the sense that it’s not indicating that it is an energy drink,” she said. “I’m happy that we are moving in a direction of making a change, but I consider these baby steps” (NBC). 

Katz’s close friend, Victoria Rose Conroy, expressed to the press that this wouldn’t have happened if her friend had been better informed.  “She was very, very vigilant about what she needed to do to keep herself safe,” Conroy said. “I guarantee if Sarah had known how much caffeine this was, she never would have touched it with a 10-foot pole” (NBC).

Similarly, Brown’s mother and siblings have filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in a Delaware Superior Court, claiming that Brown thought the rink was safe since it was not advertised as an energy drink (Time).  This new suit claims that “Panera Charged Lemonade is a juice beverage marketed to children and adults alike,” and that “this marketing is especially dangerous to a vulnerable population, children and adults who would reasonably believe this product was lemonade and safe for consumption” (Time).

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Raina Pawloski, Staff Writer
Raina Pawloski is a senior and this is her first year as a Staff Writer on the Trumpet. She enjoys writing, reading, and baking. Raina plans to major in English and Communications in college and pursue a career in journalism, publishing, or film production.
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