The parents of a 21-year-old student at the University of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit claiming that Panera’s Charged Lemonade contributed to their daughter’s death.
The parents of Sarah Katz said Panera’s Charged Lemonade, which the restaurant chain describes online as its “ultimate energy drink,” is “unreasonably dangerous,” alleging that the company has failed to warn customers of its high levels of caffeine and sugar.
A photo of Sarah Katz shared on a Facebook fundraiser post.
“Defendants [Panera] knew or should have known that the Panera Charged Lemonade, as designed and formulated, once consumed, could injure children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, and people sensitive to caffeine — including those with underlying heart problems — by causing catastrophic injuries and/or death,” the lawsuit says.
Katz was diagnosed at the age of 5 with Long QT, a condition that the American Heart Association says can cause potentially life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms, according to the lawsuit.
Katz, who also worked to raise awareness about heart conditions as a Red Cap Ambassador for the AHA, avoided highly caffeinated drinks, including energy drinks, because of her diagnosis, according to the suit.
However, in September 2022, Katz purchased a Charged Lemonade from the restaurant in her apartment building with her Panera Sip Club membership, thinking it was a traditional lemonade, the lawsuit says.
Katz, after drinking the lemonade, reportedly suffered cardiac arrest and was taken to a hospital where she went into another cardiac arrest.
An ad for the Charged Lemonade on the Panera website.
The lawsuit accuses Panera of defective warnings, stating that the store did not market the beverage as an energy drink but instead advertised it as “plant-based and clean,” with as much caffeine as the restaurant’s dark roast coffee. But Panera’s coffee does not contain sugar or other ingredients, the lawsuit noted.
The lawsuit also claims that the Charged Lemonade is “defectively manufactured” because in-house Panera workers mix unsafe ingredients at uncertain concentrations to make the drink.
The Food and Drug Administration considers as much as 400 milligrams of caffeine a day safe, depending on an individual’s sensitivity. According to Panera’s website, a regular Charged Lemonade contains 260 milligrams of caffeine and the large size has 390 milligrams of caffeine.
The drink has gained popularity as well as controversy in the past year, with TikTok users criticizing how it affects them.
In one video that has amassed more than 214,000 likes, a TikToker says the “drink should come with a warning because it’s delicious and will lead to my cardiac arrest.”
In a statement to HuffPost, Katz family attorney Elizabeth Crawford said the high-caffeine lemonade poses a “hidden danger.”
“Panera Bread’s charged lemonade is a hidden danger to the public and the Katz family wants to prevent this tragedy from happening to someone else,” she said.
Victoria Rose Conroy, Katz’s friend and roommate, told NBC News that the 21-year-old was always careful about what she consumed.
“She was very, very vigilant about what she needed to do to keep herself safe,” Conroy told NBC. “I guarantee if Sarah had known how much caffeine this was, she never would have touched it with a 10-foot pole.”
Panera did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment but told NBC the company will “work quickly to thoroughly investigate this matter.”
“We were very saddened to learn this morning about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz, and our hearts go out to her family,” the spokesperson told NBC. “At Panera, we strongly believe in transparency around our ingredients.”